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by John Cadogan

New child-restraint laws are being enacted across Australia right now, placing a hefty burden of additional responsibility on parents. Babies up to six months must ride in rear-facing baby capsules, while children from six months to four years must be secured in an approved child restraint, and from four years to seven kids must ride in an approved booster seat.

The new rules are a step forward for child safety in Australia. Some lives will be saved. But how far forward have the new rules taken us? Experts overseas claim Aussie kids remain second-class citizens on road safety – despite the new laws.

Lotta Jakobsson Ph.D., M.Sc., is Volvo Car’s top biomechanist in charge of the company’s accident and injury prevention analysis. We meet in her laboratory in the company’s headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden. Jakobsson is a world-renowned automotive child safety expert. She claims the new Australian regulations continue to place Aussie kids at unnecessary risk for three reasons: First, the laws mean we will turn our children around so that they’re facing forwards far too early in life. Second, the Australian legislation means children from the age of eight years will sit in adult seats when they should still ride in booster seats until at least age 10 or 11, and third, Australian regulators continue to refuse to allow parents access to the world’s best practise child seat fixation system, called Isofix.

“An adult’s neck is around five times stronger than a three-year-old’s,” says Jakobsson. “An even younger child’s neck is much weaker even than a three-year-old’s. The earlier you turn a young child around, the higher the risk that massive loads on the neck during a crash will cause unsurvivable injuries. I really don’t think it’s a good idea for children under three or four to face forwards in cars.”

Jakobsson says the deceleration during a serious frontal impact (”the most common kind of serious crash”) causes the child’s head to weigh many times its usual weight. “You simply get to a point where the structure of the neck can’t withstand the loads imposed,” she says. “The under-developed muscles, ligaments and bones get overloaded quite quickly. In many severe frontal crashes the adults might walk away relatively unhurt, but forward-facing children might not survive.”

To illustrate this point, she hands me a 12kg helmet designed to illustrate how unstable a child’s head is in relation to an adult’s. Wearing it you feel instantly as if your neck is no longer stable. The helmet has two large handles at the side. “You might want to hold onto those,” says Jakobsson. “For your own safety.”

In a forward-facing child seat, the child’s torso is held in place, but the head is free to move. The weakest link is the neck. When children face the rear, however, the imposed crash loads – the increased weight of the head – is supported by the structure of the seat, not the neck. “You know, there’s no secret why NASA places the astronauts rearward-facing in spacecraft,” says Jakobsson. “It’s better to support high loads on the head with the structure of the seat than through the neck.”

The proof of this pudding is in the numbers. In Sweden, with a population of nine million, just five children have died in frontal crashes in almost 50 years. In Australia, we lose 80 children annually – though not all of those die in frontal crashes. Clearly the numbers prove the Swedes are doing something right.

We move to a storage facility inside Volvo’s normally off-limits Safety Centre. It’s a repository for wrecked Volvos recovered from real-world crashes. Thomas Broberg, Volvo’s senior technical advisor on safety, takes me to a wrecked XC60, which he tells me was involved in a high-speed crash (with another, older Volvo … after all, this is Sweden). It’s a serious hit, in which the two cars met head-on, each at an estimated 65km/h. The bonnet is folded in half; concertina-ed up at more than head height. The front wheels have moved back into the guards. The headlights, bumper and grille are simply gone. The radiator and air-conditioning condenser are a press-fit into each other and also the engine and transmission, which have themselves slipped their moorings and moved back to accommodate and absorb the crash loads … a combination of very smart engineering and energy management that means the passenger compartment is remarkably intact.

“There were three people in this car,” says Broberg, “including a father driving and an 18-month-old child in a rear-facing child restraint. Everyone in the car escaped without injury, but I would not like to think about the likely outcome for the child if the seat had been the forward-facing kind.”

I ask Broberg if this child would have died in an Australian child seat. “Of course you cannot say for certain what would have happened, but I think the risk of serious neck injury, forward-facing in a crash like this would be quite high.” Unsurvivable injury? “Possibly. Yes.”

In Lotta Jakobsson’s laboratory she explains what happens when an average eight-year-old sits in an adult seat, in an adult seat belt – something permitted under the new Australian child restraint laws: “Well, their legs are quite short and the seat base is quite long in comparison so they slide forward in the seat to get their lower legs over the leading edge. That means the lap part of the seatbelt rides up over the abdomen, which is very dangerous.”

Okay, so what’s the problem exactly? “The seat belt is designed to ride over the bony part of your hips, supported on the pelvis. If it rides high and sits across your abdomen and you crash, you’re at risk of suffering severe soft-tissue injuries. You can bleed to death internally before you get to hospital. This is why children should sit in a booster seat until the age of 10 or 11 – a booster seat is designed to ensure the right geometry for the seatbelt.”

Jakobsson says children do not fit safely in adult seats until they are about 140cm tall – a height which eight-, nine- and even some 10-year-olds are yet to reach.

Then there’s the child seat itself. Australian Standards-approved child seats face forwards and use the ‘top-tether’ attachment method together with the adult seatbelt to secure the seat in the car. If it’s fitted correctly, an Australian ‘top-tether’ seat provides reasonable crash protection – albeit forward-facing.

Fitting a top-tether seat is often fairly complex, however. Unfortunately, many parents grapple with the process and get it at least partly wrong. Numerous surveys have shown as many as two-thirds of parents fit the seats incorrectly – predisposing their children to a bad outcome in a serious crash. In other words, two-thirds of Australian children are currently riding in cars with their safety seriously compromised – first by facing forwards, and second, by riding in a seat that’s improperly secured.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a better child seat fixing system, called Isofix. It’s a system designed by the International Standards Organisation (hence the ‘Iso…’ name), of which Lotta Jakobsson is a member. “Isofix is an international standard child seat attachment system,” she explains. “It’s designed around two standardised seat mounting points built into every new car. It’s used in Europe, Asia, North America and Canada.” Lotta Jakobsson is surprised when I tell her using an Isofix child seat in Australia is illegal.

I’d never fitted an Isofix seat before visiting Sweden. But I’ve now tried it. The verdict? Dead simple – almost idiot-proof. A simple-to-fit base clicks into the Isofix mounting points – there is no possibility of getting it wrong. And the child capsule clicks into the base – also an idiot-proof connection, not to mention about three times quicker than Australia’s outdated top-tether system.

Isofix is a better system because it dramatically reduces the chance of fitting the seat badly. Most new cars in Australia are landed in the country with the Isofix mounting points already in place, yet parents are not even afforded the Isofix option, because using an Isofix child seat is illegal in Australia (because Isofix does not comply with the Australian Standard, which calls for the top-tether attachment system).

The regulators claim that putting Isofix on the shopping list for Australian parents would cause undue “confusion”. A case could be put, however, that two-thirds of Australian parents are already overly confused – or at least unwittingly ignorant – when it comes to fitting a child seat. The bottom line is that allowing Isofix would go a long way to protecting the two-thirds of children driving around right now with their safety compromised via poorly fitted child seats.

While the new child restraint rules will save some young lives, ongoing regulatory arrogance in Australia will continue to add unnecessarily to the death and injury toll among our most vulnerable passengers, at least until the legislation is further upgraded to meet world’s best practice standards.

  • ElecEng

    The minister of transport should know about this.
    I don’t see the reason why Isofix is illegal in Australia simply because it is not up to “Australian Standards”. I would put my trust more on International Standard.
    No wonder population growth in Australia is very low….

  • Crossy

    Yet again Govt Bureaucracy is costing us, this time in childrens lives.
    I have three kids between 6 & 11 and during the last 11 years have had various different vehicles to which I have fitted child restraints.
    The current top tether system is a real pain in the rs to install on some cars and I can see how lots of people get it wrong.
    Investigation and implementation of the Isofix system should be given top priority if it’s going to save kids lives.

  • Steven

    How can we push this forward? I can’t believe it’s not an Australian approved system. How backward are we?

  • Steven

    I’ve sent an email to the The Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Minister for Transport, drawing his attention to this article and to ask what we can do to implement it.

    • Camry lover

      Good work! We need to have these in Australia.

      The article states that the current setup is complicated, and outdated.

      We where the first the legislate the mandatory use of seatlbelts (1970 in VIC) and will be the first to legislate the mandatory use of ESC in (VIC). So why can’t we have these made compulsory on cars with the dedicated mounting points fitted?

  • Mk

    I was amazed upon arrival in Australia that isofix child seats are illigal here (no Oz label), although the corolla I drove make provision for them.

  • http://caradvice.com.au Arbarth 130tc

    Australia early adopters of technology. Dream on!

  • RF

    ISOFix restraints have been raised several times in past decade and public submissions supporting ISOFix were also made to the National Transport Commission in 2007 when they were reviewing child restraints and Australian Road Rules.

    Nothing was done then to support the ISOFix standard in Australia and unfortunately nothing will be done in the future unless the right people are harrassed enough.

    Keep on harrassing… :)

  • Don

    All of you should get your facts straight before writing to pollies etc.
    The reason for much of the hype about ISOFix is that Volvo have spent a lot of money developing the system for there Volvos and now they don’t sell in large numbers in Australia and do not want to comply with the Australian standard because they will make even less money on each Volvo. As for tests between ISOFix and the Australian standard, you should contact Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute. They have been studying this issue for over 20 years. No overseas tests have shown that ISOfix is superior to the Australian standard and not all cars sold in Australia are capable of being fitted with ISOFix but all can be made to use the Australian standard. Naturally if the ISOFix standard had been legislated then you would all have to scrap your cars and buy European vehicles and guess what companies would love that.

    • Cynical

      Don, your (lack of) logic is breathtaking. The first step is not to oblige all road users to use the ISOFIX system but to permit those people who have ISOFIX-equipped cars and seats to use them. And as for Volvo, Volvo’s Nils Bohlin devised the three-point seat belt. As you would have it, three-point seat belts should not ever have been made compulsory in Australia because to do so would have obliged all Australian motorists to “scrap” their cars and buy Volvos or other European vehicles. As for your suggestion that others should “get … facts straight”, I have mine perfectly straight and there is no sound reason why Australians should not be permitted to use ISOFIX child restraint systems should they so choose. You certainly haven’t identified any!

    • Paul

      Don, numerous studies have been conducted concluding that ISOFIX offers improved levels of protection. Here is one — http://www.rsconference.com/pdf/RS040079.pdf.

  • RF

    Don, your facts seem a little bent. My 1998 Mazda MX5 had ISOFix support and every car I’ve bought since has had it, including the Japanese built cars. There’s no conspiracy, we don’t need to throw away all our cars. ISOFix in combination with the top tethering strap has been used in Europe since the 1990’s.

    The superiority of ISOFix, aside from the safety argument, is when moving a child restraint or capsule between cars. ISOFix is quick and easy to latch into place. The Australian method relies on a combination of the existing seat belt system, a clamp (sometimes not used by people), a top tethering strap and brute strength to tighten it all.

    I don’t think people want to legislate the mandatory use of ISOFix. What we’re after is the right to choose ISOFix and use it legally.

  • Don

    RF. Apparently ISOFix is not ruled out and that there are moves to harmonise the two systems. Yes you are right in that there are many Japanese vehicles that also have ISOFix anchorages, my Corolla had these and they are also vehicles that are designed in Europe eg Corolla from 2005 on at least since 2005 (My previous car a 2005 Corolla had them) and or are sold in Europe.

  • Vidalla

    I’m a parent of a 2 year old and not having ISOFIX is actually putting children at risk. The problem with the current system is that there a few if any seats that can be used from 0 to 4 years old, you need two maybe three seats to cover this range. Because of this parents buy one seat to save money and swap between cars, this means the seat is constantly in and out of the vehicle and the chances of incorrectly fitting are higher along with parents maybe moving their children to a higher age seat before it\’s appropriate.

    For me the situation is cost, for $200 I could buy a ISOFIX car seat that is good for 0-4 years, for that cost I would buy two for both our cars. But having to buy 4-6 different seats all at different stages and cost does make sense. Australia needs the ISOFIX system now, it just makes sense.

  • Frenchie

    My mate at Holdens told me that ISOFIX system was fitted to the American GTO’s(aka Monaros) and the Pontiac G8 (aka VE commodore. So it can be done!

    • Shak

      Its not that the system is hard to fit. It comes in almost all cars as standard nowadays, its just that our poli’s up on capital hill cant be bothered to chnage an old law. But i think K-Rudd should get onto it right now. Its a good vote winner from families.

  • maximark

    This is a a very helpul child safety article, thank you very much. Our child is 5 and a half months old, and we were so anxious to place him forward facing in another 2 weeks (6 mths old) until we’ve read this article. It’s because our child doesn’t fit to the rearward facing capsule any more due to his height, we also have a convertible baby carseat (Safe & Sound Meridian) as well but it’s quite hard to carry him out and in when have it rearward facing placement due to its design.

    Regarding to the ISOFIX, agreed with others’ comments that it’s not true that only European cars have these system, our last Hyundai i30 also have it. It doesn’t make sense why the Australian Transport consider it as illegal. Thanks again for the article, it’s a great idea to have the safety awareness articles from now and then.


  • Save it for the track

    I’ve seen driver’s of all ages and ethnic backgrounds in Australia not correctly restraining their children, and many of them just don’t seem to care either. And it’s truly scary when sometypes think it’s safer to hold a baby in their arms than to have them in a proper baby capsule. The isofix system seems far more user friendly and it seems strange to not have what appears to be a more idiot proof safety system available for our notoriously apathetic driving population.

    • PROJET-L

      This is “Natural Selection” on display.

  • Countrygirl

    Don – Get your facts right.

    In Europe (and the US where their fixed install system is called LATCH)seats are sold that do not use ISOFIX. ISOFIX seats consistently score higher than other the car restraints in European (not Volvo) tests. Maybe only Falcon and Commodore dealers see this as conspiracy, seeing that those car types are among the minority of car sold in Australia that does not accommodate ISOFIX?

    Allowing ISOFIX under the Australian standard would minimise the number of car restraints incorrectly installed into cars. Children would be safer. Where is the conspiracy?

  • Foggy

    I’ve been chasing down this ISOfix thing in the past, and it seems that Standards Australia are not yet convinced that the ISOfix system is safer than the tether system.

    This of course assumes that both methods are fitted correctly, which in a real world (not test lab) scenario would mean that ISOfix has a 67% head start, so the funding-starved safety testing required to make them an Australian Standard is moot anyway.

    These new laws should never have been introduced until the government had funded Standards Australia to finish these tests. If you’re going to force all these people to buy new seats, then you might as well make them get something in return, even if it is just the time saving when fitting and removing the seats.

  • Foggy

    I’ve looked into this ISOfix thing in the past, and it seems that Standards Australia are not yet convinced that the ISOfix system is safer than the tether system.

    This of course assumes that both methods are fitted correctly, which in a real world (not test lab) scenario would mean that ISOfix has a 67% head start, so the funding-starved safety testing required to make them an Australian Standard is moot anyway.

    These new laws should never have been introduced until the government had funded Standards Australia to finish these tests. If you’re going to force all these people to buy new seats, then you might as well make them get something in return, even if it is just the time saving when fitting and removing the seats.

  • http://buybabyseats.com Safe Baby

    I thought that was a fantastic article. I think I’ll create a blog post and link to it.

  • cg

    from the rta website

    In addition, the Australian Standard for child restraints is one of the most stringent child restraint standards in the world. Unlike the European Standard, the Australian standard requires all restraints to be tested in side and rear impact tests and some with inverted test for roll-over protection

  • RTA Hater

    What in the heck are the idiots at the RTA doing now. Just legislate for ISOFIX and save a few children from death or permanent injury.

  • svd

    RTA Hater, Aren’t these new laws Federal? The states have to follow suite? It is nonsense to have people having to change things on their vehicles to go interstate.

    • RTA Hater

      My understanding is that the State Government has the ability to approve ISOFIX if they wish, but I agree why isn’t this the standard Australia wide?

  • Joe

    Our new Impreza WRX has isofix mounts, and our daughter (who is 14 weeks off being born) is going to have to make do with an inferior Australian standards approved seat.. albeit the best on the market, which is a Safe N Sound Meridian AHR.

    I enquired about importing a Britax Isofix seat in from overseas, but our health and car insurance companies weren’t too happy about it and couldn’t guarantee coverage. What if I had an accident and my child got injured, whilst sitting in a seat that didn’t meet Aus standards? I probably wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on.

    It infurates me that Australia can’t meet the current world standards. There is nothing wrong with the seats available here, SO LONG AS THEY ARE INSTALLED CORRECTLY… incorrectly installed seats are the biggest factor in infant car crash deaths. The Isofix seats merely take the error factor out of this.

    Get with the times Australia!!!

  • Flying High

    One of the biggest problems I have found is with the Booster seat / 5 point safety harness combo. The safety harness is absolute CRAP. It could not possibly be safely set up. Within minutes of what appears to be a properly ‘top tethered’ secured strap, the belts would be loose and quite literally dangerous.

    I agree with the sentiments on the ISOFIX booster seats and it is ludicrous this country persists with second rate and bloody well dangerous comparative recommendations.

  • Michael

    Interesting topic the new child restraint laws. Whilst I am all for ensuring the safety of our children whilst on the road, which appears to be the intention of this new rule, it also creates many questions the RACV, Vic Roads and Vic Police have been unable to answer for myself.

    My not quite 5 year old son is extremely tall for his age at 121 cm and is 27 kg’s which makes it both uncomfortable for him on long trips to use a boosters seat and also potentially at risk within Australian standard child restraint/boosters seats.

    I am yet to find an approved seat that is rated above 26kgs and yet he must stay in it for another 2 years, so am I comprimising his safety by leaving him in a seat which is not rated for his weight??

    Further to this, I am told it is not safe for him to be in a seat where his eye level sits above the back of the booster seat, for which he is now doing due to his height, so am I comprimising his safety??

    So if I have an accident, will his excess weight compromise his safety and the insurance claims associated due to him being outside of the weight guidelines??

    I am trying to ensure I am providing the safest conditions to my son which is what every parent tries to do, but without the correct advice or seats available to remain within the confines of this new law, how can I adhere to it.

    • Nicole

      “his eye level sits above the back of the booster seat,”

      VERY dangerous! Can break his neck if you are in an accident.

  • http://www.drivingtest.com.au Simon Henderson

    This is so backwards. We need to have these laws in place. They should have been in place years ago!

  • Allen

    Yesterday I spent two hours with the RACQ while they attempted to install a Safe & Sound Premier Kindergarten convertable child seat. When installed in the forward facing position the seat is not well restrained at the base. The lap sash belt passes halfway up the back of the child seat and does not exert any downward pressure to hold the child seat securely. I contacted Safe & Sound on their 1300 number a spoke to some of their staff about this problem. I was amazed when I was told this lack of contact onto the car seat would be corrected when a child was seated. I repeated that the seat lifted easily with my fingertips and could be pulled forward several centimetres with light pressure. They also stated the problem was exacerbated by leather seats! They could not help and told me this problem was ‘unique’ and none of their staff had heard of such a problem. The RACQ officer then spoke to them and detailed his installation and the problem he saw with the seat. Safe and Sound could not advise us what to do beside putting cloth on the seat to stop side movement ( this was their solution for leather seats)

    I then went to the retailer who specialises in baby and child ware including all types of child seats and asked if they had ever heard of this problem. They stated it was a well know problem and Safe & Sound were not at all helpful. The retailers said they had continuing problems with dissatisfied customers. The vehicle is for my daughter who has 7 month old triplets and we are now uncertain what to do. Can anyone explain why Isofix seats can’t be used in Australia?

  • o

    I have some friends who are from europe and straight out refuse to use the Australian system and imported an isofix chair over themsleves. This is typical australian bureaucracy

  • Simon

    Email the federal Transport Minister demanding Australia adopt the Isofix system.


  • Simon

    Email the Federal Transport Minister and demand Australia adopt the safer Isofix system.
    a DOT albanese DOT mp AT aph DOT gov DOT au

  • http://babyonboard.com.au Arron

    We seem to be focusing more on the iso fix in this report and not enough on the rear facing, which in my opinion is a the more important issue. Rear for a Year should be a minimum in Australia.
    iso fix has a positive mounting to the car which may transfer more shock to a child in a accident, As the seat belt we currently use provides shock adsorption.

    • Kym

      I wish to correct Arron’s misconception about accident physics (I have extensively studied the physics and principles of injury in aviation accidents so I have some idea) In an accident a positive connection between the car and the childseat will IMPROVE safety. Otherwise why wouldnt car manufacters design seatbelts connected to the car with elastic bands or supply a pillow to put between you and the seatbelt. The principle underlying this fact is called dynamic overshoot. The instant a car is involved in an accident it starts to decelerate. A big factor in the potential for bodily injury is the peak G force on the body (as well as what direction they are in) and mostly what determines this is how much speed is decreased over what time. The car should absorb as much accident energy as possible to increase this time (eg during deformation of crumple zones outside the passenger cell) The seatbelts role is to immobilise us – the more rigidly the better (hence 5 point harnesses in race cars and fighter jets etc to maximise the time over which deceleration takes place. Consider an accident involving deceleration from 60kmh/h over 50 microseconds, well if 10 microseconds of this involves taking up slack of the seat belt fixing the seat to the car, then the car already has a head start in decelerating, so when the seat itself finally begins it’s deceleration then it has to undergo the same amount of deceleration from 60km/h to 0km/h over 40 microseconds instead of 50 so higher peak G forces will be exerted on the body. At least Aaron has grasped the rear facing concept. The lady from Volvo is entirley correct. I agree rear facing should be legislated for longer and Isofix should, at the very least, be made optional so those more enlightened people can protect their children with the best system. If my child was killed or injured in an Australian Standard seat I wouldnt hesitate to sue the relevant individuals or agencies who have failed to legalise Isofix. In my experience this gets change occurring very quickly if they have to pay out millions and open up a flood of similar claims when a legal precedent is set. If any poor parent has suffered such a loss I would implore them to consider doing exactly that. ps Absorption not Adsorption. Aarron do you work for the dept of transport? Maybe such incorrect ideas are what stops Australia getting Isofix.

  • Kathryn

    Our daughter is 7rs and 2mths and we still have her in a booster seat in the back of the car. Our car is European and the seats are low. She feels she can see, is more comfortable and we have hammered the safety value of a booster since she was able to understand so she knows why we insist upon her using it. For very short trips she gets a treat, sitting in the front, which at her age is legal. The only issue I’ve ever encountered is peer pressue – 90% of her friends don’t use booster seats. The more popular they become the better and I won’t be moving it out of the car until I am convinced she has truly outgrown it.

  • Anonymous

    I’m an Australian living in Belgium. I use the Isofix system with a Maxi-Cosi re-facing seat for our 4-month old. When I return to live in Australia with my family, I intend to bring out Isofix system and Maxi-cosi child restraint with us and to use it. I consider it illegal NOT to use it! If I’m fined by the police, I intend to challenge it in court and ask the court to show me that my system is LESS safe than the Australian system. I feel so strongly about this issue… and yes, I have emailed Mr. Albanese, Minister for Transport. If you support this issue, please also email him and apply some pressure. Australia, you’re still the lucky country but you still have a lot to learn…

    • Tinman

      It can be an expensive way to prove you are right.

    • Lincoln Robinson

      I did a similar thing. My approach was that my child would be safer and would be alive in the event of a serious car accident. That is worth more than complying with a standard and risking serious injury or the death of my child

    • Marco

      Bingo. Its refreshing to see someone taking the non-Australian approach to the issue and actually applying some common sense. People; our government may never care for the safety of our children as much as we do. How could an intelligent person NOT take responsibility for providing the highest available level of safety for their child.
      Ignore the flawed legislation, import and use an ISOFIX child safety seat.
      You might also want to think about not using your mobile phone while driving, using indicators, getting out of the right hand lane on the freeway, keeping a 2 second gap from the car in front of you, wearing seatbelts and ensuring your tyres are correctly inflated (for a start).
      Write an email to a minister if it makes you feel better. However, your words alone will not protect your children.

    • Misha

      I’m so passionate about this issue that I will be emailing the Minister of Transport. Australian standard is absolutely appalling. How many more kids do we need to loose on our roads.

      • svd

        This discussion is 4 years old and Australia has allowed ISOFIX for several years – at least 2 I think. With the demise of the Australian car industry shortly where would you gat anything other than ISOFIX?

  • Paul

    I use an Isofix seat for my kids, very decent brands off EBay from Germany and air freight not as bad as you’d expect.

  • Michael

    Does anyone know if Australian built vehicles, in particular the Ford BA/BF Falcon are capable of fitting Isofix seats? I would seriously look at importing one of these, as I think my child’s safety is worth any fines I may receive as a result of having the safer Isofix seat fitted.

    • Marcoz

      Good question,maybe email isofix with the car details,i am sure they would give u some info surely…..
      As for the fines…stuff the fines….our kids are worth more than any amount of money we pay on fines or court costs….
      albanese has no idea…neither do any of the so called aus safety authority…

  • Big bertha

    Obviously – AUSTRALIAN STANDARDS ARE RUBBISH – they are not up to scratch with INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS! I have brand new car with ISOFIX and can’t use it? instead have to waste hours trying to tether, an ill fitting seat with an impracticable top tether that BABY HAS TO WEAVE THROUGH what a joke. I hope the AUS STANDARD Luddites… wake up and move forward with the rest of the world, Australian manufacturers can just add the clips to their seats, if they are worried about protecting manufacturers over children then this is stupidity (a tariff can always be applied on overseas seats). MY FIVE CENTS.

  • Phil

    I was amazed when I returned home to Australia 18 months ago from living in Europe that ISOfix wasn’t approved as it was not up to the Australian Standard.

    My suspicion is that the small number of manufacturers that produce car seats to the ‘Australian Standard’ have a great little racket going and do not want to give it up – at the expense of our children’s safety.

    I have written to the minister and urge others to do the same.

    • Peugeotmum

      What happens to a rear facing child if you get hit from behind?

      Phil, I suspect you are right about the manufacturers of AS carseats. Look at the Safe’n’Sound capsule – they haven’t even bothered to update the design in decades. That would cut into their profits. If it’s “safe enough”, why change it?

      There is a dangerous lack of choice of carseats in Australia. Where do you find a rear facing seat for a 4 year old? Or a booster for a 12 year old? What if you want to use the Isofix capsule that comes standard with your stroller? AS capsules aren’t accepted on international flights. Isofix is accepted everywhere (except here). NZ accepts multiple standards.

      The Australian Standard is only comparable to the safety of Isofix when installed correctly, and studies have shown that is often not the case. Threading the seatbelt through a base is a painful exercise, especially when switching seats.

      Isofix ensures foolproof and quick installation, and no side-to-side movement. Isofix can be used with a top tether, which also stops front-to-back movement. All new cars have provision for Isofix and top tether. Considering Isofix came out over a decade ago, most old cars do too!

      Frankly I put my child’s safety in front of bureaucracy (or corporate greed). Our insurer is more than happy to cover us if we use Isofix.

      • aussieintheusa

        Peugeotmum, do you mind me asking which insurer? …will be returning to Oz from US in 2011 and would really like to bring my child’s ISOFIX carseat with me, knowing that insurance coverage is possible.

  • Tony

    This is ridiculous. Australian seats do not fit well at all, they wobble everywhere when fitted according to instructions, and the design damages the seat with all its sharp edges digging into leather and material.

    Some heads need to be kicked over this because childrens lives are at risk. The current Australian Standard has been a faulty standard from the start that should have been updated to the ISOFIX standard many years ago.

    If you can get a ISOFIX seat, use it, dont worry about slow acting policy makers.

    I do think the ISOFIX system should include the use the Top tether tho.

  • gr8m8s

    Ignoring legal and insurance reasons (which I think are irrelevant when it comes to life), does anyone have any thoughts on why I shouldn’t import an ISOFIX seat?

  • Anonymous

    I’m the Australian living in Belgium again… In addition to my previous post I have done some more research on the subject regarding the best brands of seats. At the moment, the best seat on the market that keeps children facing backwards until 18kg and uses Isofix seems to be the BeSafe Isofix X3. I researched on the internet and I have personally seen this seat in a large baby store here which stocks a huge selection of car seats and has a dedicated ‘car seat’ sales staff. The sales assistant who is fully trained on all brands agreed that it was the best, before I even told him of my research. It’s also expensive: at 399 euros, but I don’t care. We will be buying the BeSafe X3 and bringing it home with us, buying a car with the Isofix attachments and using it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502422904 Clarissa Hilbig

    Ok, this sounds wonderful, our kids are our future and should be protected to the best of our ability possible, getting our minister for transport to “fix” its illegal status and get it approved should be us as parents and those TTC our 1st priority, specially considering the statistics, 1 every 10yrs over there a child dies from car accidents where as we lose 80 per year, those numbers are excessively high, we should band together and petition the government for this fast and easy fixture system, might be expensive, but whats your childs life worth? i know mine are invaluable. Next thing on my mind is, to have ALL seats in the vehicle (except drivers seat of course) be fitted with these Isofix systems, reason: what about those parents like myself that have a couple of kiddies under 4 or parents to twins, triplets, quads etc etc,

    Maybe we should employ the services of today tonight or ACA etc get them onboard and have an online petition on their website, be much easier IMO

  • DNA

    The is not one single agency responsible for the introduction of ISOFIX. The ADR, Road rules and standards all need changing. Three seperate organisations each waiting for the other.
    As for testing HOLDEN assisted in testing the ISOFIX system in a commodore in a QLD test lab back around 2006. This PROVED the seats were as good as our curent system – this is all that is required to make it an option. As an asside the Aviation authoritories are also waiting for the car use to be approved before implementing them for air travel (a very good idea as the top tether in aviation is a big problem). ISOFIX design started some 25 years ago with Australia one of the initial countries – there is nothing new. 10 years ago Europe passed the laws enableing its use and cars hit the road.
    RICARO was forming an action group. looke them up on the Internet and see if they need some extra momentum.

  • Outraged

    A little knowledge goes a long way … pity no-one here bothered to do any research before posting.

    Australia was involved in the early stages of setting up the Isofix standard. The problem was that the Europeans refused to make the standard include three rear seat positions, i.e., they refused to include a CENTRE seat position. The ENTIRELY REASONABLE Australian view was that the rear centre was the safest place for a child,and all Australian made cars have a fitting for a child seat in that position. Hence why the Australians walked away from Isofix. Volvo has been sniping at Australia ever since and every couple of years they pop up flogging their back facing seats, which, for the record, just don’t work. The reason why rear-facing doesn’t work is that the way that the Europeans set it up is with a leg onto the rear floor and the seat and child sitting between the front and rear seats – the child seat is usually touching the back of the front seat. When there’s a crash the adult seats in front go flying backwards into the child seat, with dire results.

    I’d like my kids to face backwards, but they would need to be on and within the rear seat – and that’s the Australian position, had any of you bothered to check – and that’s just not possible with the taller 3 years olds like mine. But once you do move them to forward facing, reclining the seat as much as possible does help.

    I lived overseas in a very wealthy first world country where child seats were not required at all, so you were free to fit what you wanted. I had all of the Euro seats (including a bassinet for a special needs child) and ended up using forward facing ISOFIX/Top Tether combination. This is the best combo and if Australia was to adopt Isofix it should be in conjunction with top tether. Oh, and that’s the combo I use here in Australia too.

    • Mumsie

      Outraged – where does one get a seat like that in Oz?

  • Mumsie

    Why can’t we have a car seat with isoFix AND a tether strap. Seems the best of everything to me!?

  • http://www.nanny-annie.com Peter

    There are many among us that believe that this situation is completely financially driven. To have a car seat tested is very expensive numbers like $500,000 have been mentioned. For the companies that have car seats in Australia their market protection is in not allowing the European car seats to be sold in Australia. If the EU seats were allowed in Australian the current car seat suppliers would lose the monopoly on car seats they currently have. So many people believe that our children are being placed at risk. The reason Money !

  • Olivia

    I’m an Aussie live in the US, and ALL the car seats here come with both Isofix (called LATCH here) and a top tether strap, and can also be installed with a seatbelt and top tether strap. When I returned to Australia on vacation several years ago with a 2 month old, I was MORTIFIED by the rear facing convertible car seat installation! Given the fact that a Britax car seat (international version of Safe and Sound) retails anywhere from $200-$300 US, it would be cheaper to import one from a US retailer than buy a new car seat in Australia (given the current exchange rate), not to mention you’d have a safer, almost fool proof car seat installation. If I ever moved back with kids, I would absolutely bring my Isofix seats with me.
    As for rear facing, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatricians) now recommends that all children be rear facing until the age of 2. All the international studies I’ve read indicate that it is the best way for children to ride safely. I’d rather my kid have a broken leg, than suffer spinal cord injury, or not have them around to enjoy the rest of their life.

  • Cutting The Red Tape

    I guess Customs Australia didn’t get the Isofix memo cause I’ve been using a Recaro IsoFix system now for 4 years that I bought online from Germany. ADAC; Germany’s much better equivalent of the NRMA, have conducted tests on lap/sash and Isofix versions of the various child seats and consistently find that Isofix-attached seats provide less transmitted force to all areas of the childs body during crashes. With the Recaro system, same base fits both a rear facing capsule and a 9 – 18kg forward facing seat (9mths to 4yrs old) and a 9 – 36kg forward facing seat (9mths to 12yrs old).

    I’ll continue to use Isofix and will cop the fine if I have to, knowing the added safety and convenience of Isofix is worth more to me than some antequated Standard that is caught up with captilaist bureaucracy…

    Come get me coppers!!

  • Gamma3058

    I spend a lof time to get smart about car seats…and came exactly to the conclusions stated here. The ‘high’ Australian standard is putting our kids lives at risk! Maybe there is a case to challenge the government who puts the local industry ahead of our children’s lifes! …will talk to a consumer advocate to take this matter further…..let’s not give in!

  • http://www.mypreciousbaby.com.au Muuuuuuuuuum

    I am a mum to two boys and have another one on the way. My 19 month old and 4 year old are both in safe and sound maxi riders. They have been professionally installed and yet still have so much movement. I do have leather seats, but I don’t believe this is the problem. I think the seats just don’t work well with the shape of the back seat of the car (vy calais).

    Having the isofix system installed would mean that this would no longer be a problem as they would be fixed better to the car, and that perhaps I would be able to get a third seat in, instead of needing to get a seven seater to be able to accomodate three sustralian standard car seats (2x maxi riders and 1x sns meridian).

    • Extra info

      Please keep in mind that all current European and Japanese 5 seat vehicles with ISOfix can only have 2 ISOfix seats in the vehicle. ie. You can not fit 3 child seats in a car if you use ISOfix. I don’t think people understand this.

      So ISOfix may be great if you have one or two children, but is you have 3 you will have a problem.

      • kateinlondon

        but you can get two isofix on either side and another standard carseat in the middle (if you have a car that can fit three carseats across the back) – i have three and this is what we have done.

  • AC

    I contacted Standards Aust about if/when they will evaluate ISOFIX systems and they responded that “the Committee responsible for AS/NZS 1754 is about to commence a new program of work to revise the standard. This work will include the use of lower attachment systems, such as ISOFIX. The project has a 2-year timeframe.”

  • Yogi

    Is there no way of setting up a petition?? We imported our car over from the UK with our baby seat in it but have refused to use the car seats you get out here…It is not safe and I would rather get fined each time I get caught then risk my kids life!

  • sam

    You can’t fit 3 childseats in australia with an isofix they can in the example countries because they also allow infants to travel in the front seat as long as the airbag is disabled with or without isofix. which is properly the main reason it doesn’t meet australian saftey standards.if it is approved what’s to stop parents who already drive cars fitted with it from putting the child in their front seat after all the isofix is there. some people have already said they’d rather face the fine. not all US seats come with isofix and top tether, some US seats even have three point harness and chest staps that can puncture ribs or lungs on impact. not all isofix seats come with a top tether another reason it’s not legal. 6 months rear facing is minimium it’s up to the parents to decide if their child should go longer refacing seats after that. you have to remember every child grows differently wieght and height is a factor in rear facing seats. think about it this away it’s okay for your child to use a seatbelt (also a law in australia no matter your age)once they’ve out grown their seat. when they will most likely weigh more then they and their carseat or booter seat did combined at some point in their lives or at least close to equal it. it’s okay for yourself to trust australian seatbelts to keep you and your weight whatever it maybe safe but not a carseat that weights farless even with your child in it? install your carseat corectly have it checked by certifed professionals before placing your child in it. which we have ads advicing us to do and well as certain days in the year where it’s free or you get a discount to get it done. get a seat cover, blanket, carseat undermat if it seems like the seats moving but also check your tethers they may not be tight enough and be grateful australia has such high standards. if you don’t believe their high check out infant carseats on you tube for other countries america, england, europe ect and their actual laws concerning cartravel for children and even adults they might surprise you. even licence gaining processes. their are seats available in australia for bigger children you just have to look for them

  • sam

    once they’ve out grown the seat age weight back middle is best and recommended. through after transition to forward facing carseat a head/neck protector might be worthlooking in to no matter their age for when they want to sleep no matter how good your seat is their heads will still tip.

  • Concerned

    A few things to address:

    1) To all the people happy to “cop the fine” for using the Isofix/LUAS(Lower Universal Anchorage System)/Latch system illegally. I don’t think the fine should be you biggest concern as you need to be aware insurance will not pay for any form of coverage if your child is injured or heaven forbid, killed in an accident using a restraint that does not conform to Australian standards. I was told if I did bring the one I used in Canada back & used it the charge likely to result in such an instance would be more than just a “slap on the wrist” fine.

    2)It will be a simple fixation system to transition to when it is finally approved. I recently traveled to Canada where they use a tether with the LUAS/Latch/Isofix system and it was so simple once I figured out the installation. The system is simple yet there are still errors (albeit fewer) that can be made when using it. My big concern would be that parents are used to the seat belt fixing method so decide to combine Isofix/LUAS/Latch with it against recommendation and cause undue stress on the restraint increasing the risk of injury due to restraint failure cause by the stress. This will need to be addressed in a major ad campaign so the mistake is not made as it commonly was when the Isofix/LUAS/Latch systems were initially introduced.

    NOTE -the Isofix & LUAS/Latch systems are NOT the same but similar. Isofix uses a removable base attachment and LUAS/Latch is fixed directly to the restraint and not removable. Also Latch fitted restraints also require the use of a top tether.

    LUAS/Latch/Isofix restraints can also be used in aircraft which are all designed with the required anchorage bars recessed in the seats, resulting in much safer restraint & safety for our children in the air also.

    3)We need more rear facing restraint that allow rear facing up to a greater (22kg) weight as in the end, research & testing proves out that his is by far the best protection for our children and they are very comfortable in it.

    4) We do have very high (some of the highest in the world) manufacture/safety/stress standards for child restraints here in Australia. But these are undone in part by the rear/forward facing standards/requirements/laws.

    5)Even the Isofix/LUAS/Latch systems can still result in traumatic/fatal injury to children forward facing. The big issue should be how long children are required to remain in restraints and forward or rear facing. These two factors affect their safety more than anything else. It should be according to weight/height, not age.

    On another note;
    Most of the late model(newer)vehicles on Australia’s roads are unable to fit 3 full sized booster/child restraints across the back seat, even when attempted by professionals. I have several friends who have come across this problem even after being informed when the purchased the vehicle that they did comply & would fit 3 restraints correctly. So most new 5 passenger vehicles will not properly support our new restraint laws creating a greater risk to our children and placing a greater burden on families. Unless you by a 7 passenger vehicle if you have 3 children under the size/age for restraint requirements. This is something else that needs to be addressed by our government- Why are they allowing vehicles into the country that cannot meet the requirements to fit multiple child restraints which are being marketed as 5 passenger vehicles suitable for 3 restraints across the rear seat? That or they should be working to find a way to reduce the financial burden on families with more that 2 children so the regulations can be correctly adhered to.

    A last note; Australia has some of the highest costing restraints and because of this many people use old/outdated/unsafe ones because of the exorbitant cost of the newer safer models. Maybe our illustrious government should regulate this too for the safety of our children if they require us all to comply with the new laws regarding them. It was cheaper for me to buy a high level restraint in Canada for 3 1/2 months we were traveling there, & I’m a single parent on a low income, than to rent one. Something that would not be possible at our outrageous costs here.

  • Carmel

    I have a prado, with leather seats, and a safe n sound ahr. I was thinking buying the safest Australian seat was the best thing to do but it doesn’t fit our car seats. It works well in our older less safe car but multiple professional fitters have failed to fit it into the prado. The prado comes with isofix as std, but I can’t use it and can’t get a seat to fit the car in Australia- its ridiculous. In addition my 10 month old is 12 kg and has to be forward facing, due to the lack of car seats available to keep in him rear facing for the Australian recommendation of 12 months