ISOFIX has been allowed in Australia as a standard for child seats for almost five years now. Why is it a safer alternative and what makes ISOFIX compliant seats different?
With research by Monash University’s Accident Research Centre showing that approximately 80% of the current style of child car seats incorrectly installed in Australia, and heralded as a safer alternative to the current Australian standard.
The system attaches the car seat using two rigid connectors to anchorage points at the base of the rear seat, with a button release claw. In Australia, there is also a top tether strap to secure the seat and keep it from rotating or moving in the event of a crash.
Child car seats that are secured using the seatbelts are often installed incorrectly thanks to an incorrect amount of tension in the seatbelt, or not running the seatbelt through the correct points on the child seat. ISOFIX seats remove this complication.
Admittedly, there may not be structural differences to the child seat to make it any safer than a non-ISOFIX seat – however, because ISOFIX compliant child car seats remove the complication when installing, this ensures that the child seat has minimal or no movement that will harm your child in an accident or when travelling.
The top tether anchor point will be located in a different place depending on your car. Ideally, it will be on the back of the rear seat so you don’t have straps running all over the place, however it may be on the roof or on the rear parcel shelf.
Extend the connectors at the base of the child car seat, put the child seat in place on the back seat and push it onto the anchors points until you hear a click. Then take the top tether strap and attach it to its anchor point, making sure that the strap is as tight or tense as possible so that the seat doesn’t move in the event of an accident or when travelling.
You can purchase rearward and forward-facing child car seats that are ISOFIX compatible, however booster seats and convertible booster seats for older children do not have ISOFIX compatibility. You cannot purchase or import ISOFIX seats from other countries (like the US) because of their differing standards. For example, European ISOFIX standards do not require child seats to have a top tether point.
It’s also important to know when to move up to the next size car seat. Babies should be placed in rearward facing car seats for as long as possible with their size. They will then progress to a forward-facing child restraint with a built-in harness, before moving onto a booster seat as they age. Children under 7 must be in a child restraint, and cannot sit in the front seat unless other children occupy all other seats.
If you’re unsure about when your child should move to the next size of car seat, there are often markers on the restraint itself to show when the child should move up, but a general guide is when the eye level of the child is above the back of the current restraint.
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