Child Safety Seat Age
It is recommended that children sit rear-facing for as long as possible. In Scandinavian countries, for example, children sit rear-facing until around 4 years old. Rear-facing car seats are significantly safer in frontal collisions, which are the most likely to cause severe injury and death. Rear-facing group 1 car seats are becoming more widespread but are still difficult to source in many countries.
Other car seats, also known as "booster seats," are required until the child is large enough to use an adult seat belt. This is usually, but not always, when the child is 1.49 (4ft 9in) tall. The child needs to meet five criteria before moving out of the booster seat, including the child's seating position, shoulder belt position, lap belt position, knee position, and ability to sit properly for the length of the trip.
All child restraints have an expiration date. Seats can expire 6 years from the date of manufacture, although this can vary by manufacturer. Expiration dates are highly debated, with proponents and manufacturers claiming that older car seats can degrade over time to be less effective and that changing laws and regulations necessitate an expiration date. Opponents argue that it is simply for their legal protection and to sell more car seats, and point out that manufacturers have noted that the plastics in most car seats long outlast the expiration date. As ageing is due to temperature swings and UV-light, a seat ages faster in a car than in a cool, dark cellar.
By law every child restraint sold in Australia must carry the Australian Standard AS/NZ1754 sticker (pictured right). Most overseas child restraints, including restraints from Europe and the USA, do not comply with these Standards and cannot legally be used in Australia. This also applies for ISOFIX child restraints imported from Europe or the USA.
'Infant carrier' means a restraint system intended to accommodate the child in a rearward-facing semi-recumbent position. This design distributes the restraining forces over the child's head and body, excluding its limbs, in the event of the frontal collision.
Crashes that meet all of these criteria are much less severe than the dynamic testing requirement for compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213 and are highly unlikely to affect future child safety seat performance.
Lower anchors have weight limits set by the vehicle and car seat manufacturers. You can determine the lower anchor weight limit by checking the warning label or installation diagrams located on the side of the car seat. If your car seat does not have a label, you can determine the maximum allowable child weight for lower anchor use by subtracting the weight of the car seat (usually available in the car seat’s instruction manual) from 65 pounds.
The purchase of a used seat is not recommended. Due to the aforementioned concerns regarding expiry dates, crash testing, and recalls, it is often impossible to determine the history of the child restraint when it is purchased second-hand.
Forward-facing car seat: After outgrowing rear-facing seat until at least age 5. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should be buckled in a forward-facing car seat, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of their seat. Check the seat’s owner’s manual and/or labels on the seat for weight and height limits.