Parents rejoice! The clever ISOFIX child seat restraint system will be available in Australia within days after the rubber stamp from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
It’s still worth asking the question why it has taken so long for ISOFIX to be approved for use in our country.
Australia has often been among world leaders in vehicle and road safety – be it mandatory seatbelt use (a legal requirement from 1972) or random breath testing (which came into force in the 1980s) – but our government has lagged well behind the rest of the world when it comes to child seat restraints.
ISOFIX was standardised in Europe in 1997; the US (where the system called LATCH) 11 years ago, in 2002.
The Federal Government gave ISOFIX the green light in early 2012, yet it has still taken two and a half years for the seat system to become reality.
Even then, Australia – as with its overly fussy Australian Design Rules for vehicles – deemed it necessary for ISOFIX seats sold here to require an additional top tether despite Europe and the US being considered sufficiently safe without it.
This meant Australians couldn’t purchase ISOFIX seats from overseas for legal use here, even though virtually all imported cars and locally-built cars – such as the Commodore – feature the anchorage points.
At least it’s here now, and it will be a relief for those parents who have been pleading with politicians to introduce these child seats.
What’s all the fuss about if ISOFIX is new to you?
It’s not that ISOFIX child seats are safer per se than those currently sold in Australia.
But it does mean the end of the days of parents having to fight with seatbelts – trying to pull and thread them through holes and using every ounce of arm power to tighten them while using the rear of the front seatback as leverage to force the child seat into the depths of the rear bench.
You’re then left worrying if the seat is secure enough – and a 2013 Monash University study found nearly 90 per cent of child restraint seats had been incorrectly secured.
The advantage of the ISOFIX system comes in how a simple metal rails (or brackets) at the bottom of the seat slide into specifically placed slots hidden in the bottom of the rear seatbacks (and usually marked by an ‘ISOFIX’ tag).
Push, wait for the click, check the seat is rigid. How easy is that? Removing it is just as simple – pull on a bar and the rails are released from their anchorage points.
Many of us on the CarAdvice team have used or tried ISOFIX restraint systems, and we’re huge fans.
And as someone who has to swap car seats in and out of press cars on a weekly basis, you can be assured that I’m off right now to place my order on an ISOFIX seat.