With 88 per cent of infant car seats said to be installed incorrectly in Australia, the introduction of ISOFIX seats (which are either plugged in or not) will be a leap for child safety for Australian motorists.
Specifically, the new rules, which were announced today, apply to products made compliant to 2013 Child Restraints Standard AS/NZS1754.
The changes, which were detailed more than a year ago, specify that ISOFIX seats will now be legal to use in vehicles in Australia. However, the use of foreign ISOFIX seats remains technically illegal due to a lack of an upper tether anchorage.
The Australian standard ISOFIX rules allow seats to use lower attachment connectors locked into ISOFIX low anchorages in motor vehicles that have them fitted. They will also be available in a similar system to the LATCH points in American cars, where the connectors are not hard-fixed to the seat itself.
The rules will effectively mean that while ISOFIX seats are now legal, only those sold in Australia will be compliant with the new rules, considering ISOFIX or LATCH seats in Europe or North America do not require and are not fitted with the top tether connector.
Additional changes for child seat rules will allow parents to keep their children rear facing up to approximately two to three years of age based on a new category of restraint.
This will be good news for parents, based on the advice from safety experts that recommend young children to be rearward facing for as long as possible.
An additional change will now allow child restraints with an in-built harness to be used for children up to eight years of age, where previously the age limit was up to around four. While babies that are of low birth weight or premature, can also use new suitable child restraints.
Finally, the ACCC has also introduced aircraft compatibility requirements, allowing valid child restraints to be labelled suitable for air travel.
The first ISOFIX child seats will be from Maxi Cosi with a full range of child seats launched on September 27th. Britax will follow by mid October 2014.
ACCC's official release below:
NEW SAFETY STANDARD ANNOUNCED TO PROTECT CHILDREN ON OUR ROADS
The Minister for Small Business, the Hon Bruce Billson, today announced important changes to the mandatory safety standard to increase protection for children travelling in motor vehicles.
The changes mean that the latest developments in child restraints for motor vehicles are available in Australia and the Standard will continue to provide a high level of protection for children and reduce the risk of injury in the event of crashes.
The Standard incorporates key safety elements of the latest version of the voluntary Australian Standard and permits the use of ISOFIX attachments.
The ISOFIX attachments allow the seat to clip into two rigid or flexible ISOFIX lower anchorage points at the back car seat, restricting the amount of movement between the child seat and the belt clip in the event of a crash.
About 1,000 children are seriously injured each year in motor vehicle incidents, with car crashes the most common cause of injury and death for children aged between 1 and 14 years.
I encourage all parents and carers to have an approved safety device fitted to their child’s car seat to help protect their loved ones and reduce injuries in the event of a crash.
The amendments to the Standard come after detailed consultation was carried out with industry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.