Car seats

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    It is legally required that you use a suitable car seat for your baby when travelling by car. 

    Babies must travel in a rearward facing car seat for at least 6 months. The safest option is to keep your baby in a rearward facing seat for as long as it can accommodate your baby’s height and size.

    Here are a few simple steps you can take to keep your baby as safe as possible in their car seat.

    Choosing a safe car seat

    Baby strapped in a rear facing restraint.

    There are a range of child car seat options on the market to suit different budgets and stages of development. When choosing a car seat for your baby, here are some simple things to check:

    • Can’t see an Australian safety compliance label? Don’t buy it. All car seats must comply with current Australian safety standards (AS/NZS 1754) to reduce the risk of injury and death in a car accident.
    • Confirm road safety advice on using car seats in your state or territory, as laws relating to local use can vary.
    • The car seat must be suitable for your car and your baby’s size and approximate age. As long as it fits, keeping your baby in a rearward facing car seat for as long as possible offers the best protection in an accident.
    • There should be instructions for assembly, use and maintenance as well as warning labels.
    • The car seat must have tether straps which attach to your car and reduce the movement of the car seat in the event of an accident.
    • Look out for a minimum 5-point safety harness with double-crotch straps and a quick release buckle to quickly remove your baby from their car seat.
    • Check that parts of the car seat that your baby can reach are not rigid or sharp.

    Second-hand car seats shouldn’t mean second-rate safety

    There’s no cargo more precious than your baby. While using, buying or borrowing a second-hand car seat may be appealing, there are a few things you should check:

    • Look for labels that show compliance with the current Australian mandatory safety standard for Child restraints for use in motor vehicles.
    • Confirm that the car seat is appropriate for your child’s approximate age and size.
    • Copies of instructions for assembly, safe use and maintenance.
    • The car seat should be in good condition  watch out for signs of wear and tear like cracks, frayed straps or broken buckles.
    • Verify the car seat’s history with the previous owner.  
    • The buckle should click in place securely and not jam.

    What to avoid

    Using, buying or borrowing a car seat over 10 years old is not recommended as safety standards may have changed.

    An older car seat's ability to provide your baby protection in a crash is compromised due to wear and tear.

    If you are unsure of the car seat's history, don't use it.

    Do not use, buy or borrow a car seat that has been recalled.

    Never use, buy or borrow a car seat that has been in an accident as they are a potential safety risk.

    Using a car seat safely

    • The safest option is to get your car seat installed at an authorised fitting station. Your local state or territory road transport authority may have information to help you find a fitting service, or you may wish to contact your local Kidsafe office for more information.
    • If you are installing a car seat yourself, make sure it’s done in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and the vehicle manual.
    • Don’t wrap your baby in blankets or swaddling or leave puffy jackets on before putting them in the car seat, this could prevent the seat from protecting your baby in an accident.
    • When a safety harness is properly fitted and adjusted, straps should not be twisted, and they should fit snugly with no slack. As a guide, if you can pinch the straps near your baby’s shoulder, they need to be tightened.
    • Check the fit of the safety harness on every trip, as it can become loose with use.
    • Avoid adding accessories and attachments, like car seat head supports, straps or restraints to your baby’s car seat as they can be dangerous.
    • If your child falls asleep in the car seat or capsule, check them regularly. Don’t leave them for long periods or unsupervised. Remove your sleeping baby from their car seat or capsule to place them in a safe sleeping environment as soon as practical, even if it means waking them.
    • Use the car seat properly on every trip, even for short distances or when the car is stationary.
    • For further safety advice, refer to the Kidsafe resource  A Parent's Guide to Kidsafe Roads or the Top 10 Steps for Safer Travel fact sheet developed by Neuroscience Research Australia and Kidsafe.