ONE of the biggest players in the child seat retail market has hailed anchorage point law changes as a "significant step forward".
Standards Australia last week approved the use and sale of Isofix - which enables seats to be clicked into place rather than routing a seat belt through the centre.
Isofix has been used in Europe for more than 15 years. Brackets are attached to the car's frame beneath the back seat and child seats click into place at the base.
The seats still require a top tether strap to an anchorage point on the back parcel shelf, roof or seat-back (overseas a floor-mounted prop is used).
Britax, which manufacturers seats for Safe-n-Sound and Steelcraft, has played a key role in the law change. The company expects to have Australian Isofix approved seats on the market by the end of the year.
"This revision to the Australian and New Zealand Child Restraints Standard is a significant step forward for child safety in Australia and our safety and technical team will work tirelessly on child restraints that utilise these new safety features including Isofix compatible child restraints," Britax managing director Asia-Pacific Maurice McGrath said.
Child seat manufacturers will have the option of supplying rigid lower connectors to attach to the vehicle or flexible connection, similar to the systems used in the USA and Canada (referred to as Latch or UAS).
Despite being similar to overseas child restraints, the Australian Standard includes several options that connect to Isofix low anchorages.
Key changes to the standard for parents to be aware of include:
- Child restraints including lower attachment connectors allowing them to be engaged with Isofix low anchorages available in many cars will be made available Australia. This new category is similar to systems offered overseas. As with all Australian child restraints, the upper tether strap is required for use;
- A new category of restraint will allow for most children to stay rear facing up to about two-three years of age;
- A new category of child restraint with an in-built harness for children from about six months up to about eight years of age will be introduced. Previously restraints with an in-built harness have only been available for children up to about four years of age;
- Introduction of testing and defining child restraints that are suitable for babies that are of low birth weight or premature, and
- Introduction of child restraints suitable for aircraft travel.
The biggest step forward is for the ease of installation, making it faster and simpler to correctly fit the seats.
"Our current Australian and New Zealand child restraint systems provide high levels of safety equal or better to that of products globally," Britax Australia's technical director Mike Lumley said.
"The main expected benefit from Isofix compatible child restraints is an improvement in fitment to the vehicle. Parents are likely to find these new style child restraints easier to fit to vehicles, reducing the potential risk of incorrect instalment."
When buying a car seat it is important to remember that all child restraints that meet the Australian Standard have the "five tick" standards mark that confirms compliance.
Australian drivers who use a European Isofix or American Latch or UAS child restraint are not obeying Australian Road Rules and are at risk of receiving a traffic fine.