By Jeremy Rochow
Last updated on: April 24, 2020 at 11:11 am
Becoming a parent can be daunting, and on top of everything else, you feel like you need to develop the same skill set as a semi-professional builder.
Leading up to the birth of our first child, I’ve put together countless baby-related items, from a cot and stroller to a bassinet and mini bookshelf.
At some point in the next few weeks, I’ll need to consider buying a child restraint for our car.
As a person who struggles to construct the simplest IKEA products, I’d usually get the RAA Child Safety Centre to install the restraint, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, it’s not able to provide appointments in person.
Don’t worry though – while the team at the RAA Child Safety Centre can’t see you in person, they can still help.
RAA child safety expert Belinda Maloney says the Safety Centre is conducting virtual appointments to help parents and carers fit their restraints correctly.
“We’re using video conferencing to demonstrate how to correctly fit specific types of seats,” she says.
We’re talking customers through the installation in an easy-to-understand, visual way.”
RAA’s Child Safety Centre team has been live streaming safety advice for parents and carers since the Covid-19 crisis forced the suspension of face-to-face appointments at the Mile End site.
However, these live streaming sessions will continue even once the Child Safety Centre resumes face-to-face appointments.
In case you’re wondering why you should do your research before setting up a child restraint, a recent audit performed at suburban Adelaide childcare centres found 95 per cent of restraints were not installed correctly.
Whether you’re installing a child restraint for the first time or making some alterations, here are some tips to guide you through the process.
1. Choosing the right restraint
It all begins at the shop. If you buy the incorrect restraint, you’ll be in strife from the start.
By law, children under 6 months need a rearward facing restraint and can’t travel in the front of a vehicle that has 2 or more rows of seats.
Rear-facing restraints require extra room so it’s important to try the restraint in your vehicle before buying.
RAA’s Safety Centre can help you choose the correct restraint for your child and the one that is most suitable for your car.
As your child grows, they’ll need to transition into a forward-facing seat and the team in the centre can help with that as well.
Passenger not restrained properly?
The fine for having an unrestrained passenger in your car.
2. Selecting the best position in the car
This is a tricky one. The centre seat in the car is the safest position as it’s furthest away from the sides of your car.
However, if there’s another child travelling in the vehicle or you find the centre difficult then the next best place is on the passenger side.
If you’ve got a newborn, the best place to set up your child restraint is behind the passenger seat, so you can maximise space and minimise driver interference.
It also means you’ll be getting your child out of the car on the pavement side of the road.
If you’ve got 2 child restraints, then the most likely set up is to install them on either side of the backseat.
3. Adjusting and fitting the seat correctly
Firstly, read the instructions – this might seem obvious, but sometimes we get a bit gung-ho and jump in to get the job done. I know I’m guilty of it.
However, one thing I’ve learnt since I started putting together all this baby-related gear is that following instructions will ensure your child’s safety.
Loose child restraints
The percentage of child restraints RAA Safety Centre found were loose.
Every seat comes with a comprehensive instructional booklet and if you lose it along the way they can be found online.
Adjust the harnesses for the size of the child and make sure you have selected the right mode for your child.
Fit the seat firmly to the vehicle using the seatbelt and don’t forget to use the top tether.
Figures from the RAA Safety Centre show that about half of child restraints checked were too loose.
4. Using the restraint correctly
It’s important to have your child strapped in firmly and without any twists in the straps.
In fact, the RAA Child Safety Centre recently found that 21% of restraints checked had loose or twisted harness straps, increasing the risk of ejection in a crash.
How do you know how tight the harness straps should be? You shouldn’t be able to pinch the straps, but you should still be able to place your fingers under the straps.
Check the fitting of the seat regularly as time goes by. As your child grows, be sure to move the straps up.
5. Ask for help
Struggling with your child restraint, or worried it isn’t installed properly? The RAA Child Safety Centre can help. Give them a call or email your questions and photos.
They’ll help you the best they can and set up a virtual appointment if needed.
If you’re having trouble installing or readjusting your child restraint, the RAA Safety Centre can also provide you with a link to a few helpful videos.