The federal government has finally paved the way for the Isofix child restraint system to be legalised in Australia, more than a decade after it was introduced in North America and Europe.
Parliamentary secretary for Infrastructure and Transport Catherine King said the government has reacted to increasing calls from parents to be allowed to use the internationally approved Isofix system to protect their children while in the car.
“The Gillard government has listened and has now introduced safety requirements for new vehicles where fitted with Isofix anchorages,” King said.
“This clears the way for Australian child restraints to include these new compatible features.
“This change allows the government and parents to continue to provide the highest levels of safety for children – while offering greater consumer choice.”
Standards Australia has started work on the project, which should see Isofix legalised by early 2013.
For years, Australian regulators have claimed introducing Isofix would create more confusion for parents, but the government now admits it is a “simpler way” to attach child restraints than the existing top-tether system.
Numerous studies have shown that Isofix seats are fitted correctly by parents up to 98 per cent of the time, while as many as two-thirds of parents incorrectly fit top-tether restraints, which are currently the only option for Australians.
Isofix was first launched in 1997 after being developed by Volkswagen and child restraint expert Britax Romer. A similar system called LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) has been required in all new cars in the US since September 2002.
Isofix is designed to be simpler for parents to fit. Special connectors on child safety seats clip into matching anchorage points in seat bases, which are now standard in most new cars.
King said parents would still be permitted to use top-tether restraints after Isofix was approved.
The national rules for restraining children in cars were updated in March 2010. Children under six months old must be secured in a rearward-facing restraint. Children between six months and four years must be secured in a rear- or forward-facing restraint, and children between four and seven years must be restrained in a forward-facing restraint or booster seat.