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What to Keep in Mind When Looking at Child Seats

5 minute read

Car seats; they’re something that we don’t think about until we need them, and then, like many things, we forget just how stressful the whole thing was after the time has passed.  

The process of purchasing a car seat can seem like more stress than it’s worth, after all how much of a difference could there be between models.  

While it is true that more often than not, a bad car seat is better than no car seat at all, there are still some standards that must be met. An appropriate car seat can reduce the risk of injury, hospitalisation, or even death by 70%; this is why choosing the right one is so important. 

The Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) provides safety ratings for car seats on their website using crash test dummies. CREP is sort of like the ANCAP of the car seat world. However, they are a noticeably smaller organisation, and as such, test a noticeably smaller pool of products. CREP is a well-regarded organisation with partners including TAC, Centre for Road Safety, and Kidsafe Australia. 

CREP recently updated their procedures in 2021 to improve how they evaluated results from side and front impact. You are able to click on each model tested and see the breakdown of the scores; this will help you choose based on what factors you feel are most important. Some of the factors that you can see the results for include head trauma, the force received by the neck, and force applied to the chest.  

Surprisingly one of the more dangerous aspects of a car seat, is the parent. Kidsafe has found that around 90% of car seats are fitted improperly. Incorrectly installed car seats can be just as dangerous, or even more so, as not using one at all. Because of this many places now choose to include the ease of use as a factor of the safety rating. CREP is one of the organisations that choose to do so. As such you are able to see the rating on the ease of use of things such as the instructions, labelling and installation.  

Child seat fitting stations are now widely available to help not only install your car seat in the correct way, but to also show you how to do the same. One thing to keep in mind is that states do not clearly outline requirements for someone to work as a child seat installer.  

Kidsafe have several lists of stations that they approve of on their website for your state. 

In Australia, there are minimum safety requirements that all car seats have to meet. While usually minimum requirements aren’t seen as a good thing, in this case they are. It means that any seat sold within Australia must be safe enough to protect your child. Therefore, as long as you’re not shopping from overseas websites, you should have a reasonably safe car seat by Australian standards. 

There are a few key things that do need to be understood though: 

  1. Never use a car seat that has been in a crash, or even sustained damage (such as being dropped over a balcony). 
  2. Do not use a car seat that has visible damage, including cracks, frayed belts, or stiff buckles. 
  3. Do not use a car seat that is older than 10 years, missing manufactures dates, or an instructions booklet.  
  4. Do not use a car seat if you do not know its history. 

This information can be helpful in choosing the right protection so you know that when you leave the hospital with your new bundle of joy you can relax as much as a new parent can with the knowledge that they are safe. Expect for mutant, fire breathing koalas, we have no advice for that. 

You can check out our video on laws around car seats here. 

CREP ratings:  

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8