For the first time in a decade, Victoria last year recorded zero deaths for passengers under seven years of age travelling in vehicles. Although this positive news is very encouraging, the Minister for Roads Terry Mulder used it as a reminder for parents to remain vigilant when travelling with children.
According to Mr Mulder’s office, children in a booster seat are 3.5 times less likely to be seriously injured in the case of a crash, versus children using a seatbelt.
Obviously kids can’t stay in a booster forever, so when is the right time to transition them from a booster to a seatbelt? As it turns out, the answer has a lot less to do with age than it does with height. Your child should be at least 145 centimetres tall before you contemplate making the transition. Until that time, consider a booster seat with an adjustable headrest so that the booster can adapt to the growing child.
The Five Step Test
To remove the guesswork, a nifty Five Step Test developed by Neuroscience Research Australia and Kidsafe has now been recommended as part of Australia’s new national child restraint guidelines. The Five Step Test is designed to help you determine if your child is ready to make that transition from booster to belt.
For your child to be able to sit in an adult seat and use a standard seatbelt, the answers to all these questions should be ‘yes’:
Can your child sit with their back against the vehicle seat back?
Does your child’s knees bend in front of the edge of the seat?
Does the sash belt sit across the middle of the shoulder?
Is the lap belt sitting low across the hips touching your child’s thighs?
Can your child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
Although your child might be big enough to move from a booster to an adult seatbelt, the same cannot be said about front seat driving. Minister Mulder recommends children 12 years and younger remain seated in the rear of the vehicle.
Giving a Lift?
Don’t forget restraint guidelines apply to any child in your vehicle, not just your regular travellers! As such if you’re offering a lift to a child, be sure they pass the Five Step Test (unless you have a spare booster!).