PARENTS can now buy and use a new child seat restraint system which "clicks" into place rather than using the current seat belt system.
The Australian Standard has approved Isofix-compatible lower attachment connectors in some types of child restraint, but the top tether straps must still be used.
Isofix uses pair of brackets attached to the car's frame beneath the back seat. The child seat clicks into place at the base and also requires a top tether strap to another point (in Europe a floor-mounted prop is used).
"The revised standard maintains rigorous Australian requirements for restraining children in vehicles, but now allows Isofix-compatible lower attachment connectors to be included as an additional option in the design of certain types of child restraints", said Colin Blair, chief executive officer for Standards Australia.
This means users will be able to either use the Isofix-compatible lower attachment connector or the vehicle seatbelt (threaded through the child restraint) as the mechanism for attaching the seat to the car at its base. When correctly installed, both systems offer comparable levels of protection.
Authorities hope change will increase the likelihood of correct installation of child restraints. Lower anchorage attachment systems (known as Isofix in Europe and Japan, Latch in North America, and UAS in Canada) enable child restraints to attach to permanent brackets inside some vehicle seats, providing a clear indication of correct installation.
Automotive clubs have researched installations in Australia, and have found about 70% of seats are installed incorrectly.
"Unlike some overseas systems, the (Australian) standard will still require the use of top tether straps for child restraints, in addition to the mechanism for attaching the seat to the car at its base. The use of a top tether strap has been a requirement of the standard since it was first published," Mr Blair said.
A correctly installed restraint using a vehicle seatbelt-style attachment (threaded through the child restraint) together with the top tether strap will continue to be acceptable.
Other changes to the standard include new provisions for rear-facing restraints that allow children to remain in a rear facing position for longer, and revised test methods allowing child restraints to be designated as suitable for low birth weight infants.
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