Considering the majority of child car seats are fitted incorrectly, it comes as a relief that ISOFIX car seats are now finally on sale in Australia. ISOFIX is a standardised car seat fitting system that allows seats to be installed quickly and safely without the need for seat belts.
In 2011 my wife and I were expecting our first child and like many first timers we were busy researching all the things we would need for our new arrival. High on both our lists was finding a safe car seat to keep our precious bundle of joy safe on the road.
I thought we were off to a good start as our car (VW Golf) has one of the highest crash safety ratings and it has car seat fittings already built-in(pictured below). The markings were clearly labelled ISOFIX so all we needed to do was find the safest ISOFIX compatible seats which shouldn't be hard to find online....or so I thought.
When I went to search for ISOFIX car seats all I found were forum posts from of mums or mums to be complaining that ISOFIX was not legal in Australia. It launched in Europe in back in 1997 and is fitted to the majority of cars for the past ten years so it seemed crazy that something designed to enhance safety would not be legal.
I knew that new car safety ratings in Australia were issued by ANCAP and that they use the same standards set by the equivalent body in Europe, Euro NCAP. I wrongly assumed that there would a similar set up for car safety measures but I was very wrong.
So, despite our car being ready for an ISOFIX car seat to slot into place we would have to look at a car seat using seat belts. Advocates of Australian safety rules make the valid point that the countries regulations are among the most stringent in the world and that Australian standard car seats fitted properly are very safe. However, a number of studies have shown that the majority of car seats are fitted incorrectly. A 2009 study found 88% of front facing car seats were fitted incorrectly.
88% of forward facing car seats incorrectly fitted
If we had around a 90% chance of getting wrong then this was a worry. After a bit of research and talking to friends who already had kids we did find out there are some great services on offer to get your car seat fitted properly. The most popular in QLD is Kidsafe who offer services at the Kidsafe House in Windsor.
While these services are great I've found there are situations where it is not practical to get the seat professionally fitted or checked. Such situations include;
With an ISOFIX seats the risks of fitting the seat incorrectly fall dramatically. Red and green coloured indicators tell you if the ISOFIX connections are in place or not. Take a look at the video below from the UK explaining how ISOFIX works. Having had the chance to use an ISOFIX seat for our daughter on trips to the UK to visit my family I can say that ISOFIX offers a number of advantages including;
If more car seats were fitted correctly then less children would be injured on the road each year. It seems ridiculous to me that the government could be so slow in adjusting regulations to allow safety innovations.
Hopefully next time a new safety innovation is introduced it won't take so long to reach Australia. Children who were in car seats when ISOFIX was first released are now old enough to drive themselves!
Let us know in the comments.