When I took my son for his before-school checks just prior to him turning 5, I remember the health professional that took us through the series of tests and did the weighing and measuring mentioned to me that children should remain in either a car seat or a booster seat until they are 148cm high, and although they weren’t trying to make children who were no longer in seats go back to being in them they we encouraging parents to keep their children in them until they reached that height. Given that I am a mere 158cms tall, I was a little embarrassed that I was only 10cms taller than this – so anyway I have merrily been putting my son in a booster seat for a little under two years (he was still in a car seat until he was five and a half), thinking that the 148cm requirement was law.
It wasn’t until today that the news indicated that they were thinking of changing the law that I discovered that in fact height has nothing to do with the requirement of a child being in an approved child restraint but is in fact based on their age.
This is what the current law says:
Requirements for child restraints
Children aged under five must be secured in an approved child restraint when travelling in cars or vans.
- Children aged between five and seven must use a child restraint if available. If not available, they must use a safety belt. If a safety belt is not available they must travel in the back seat.
- Children aged between eight and 14 must use safety belts if available. If not available, they must travel in the back seat.
- People aged over 14 must wear safety belts where they are available.
International best practice recommends the use of an appropriate child restraint (or booster seat) until your child reaches 148 centimetres tall or is 11 years old.
Whilst the decision about changing the law to require children up to 7 to be in an approved child restraint has not yet been made, one of the reasons they are choosing again to set this requirement as an age rather than a height is because ‘apparently’ it’s easier to police an age – which I find rather confusing. A parent or caregiver could easily misrepresent a child’s age if they were pulled over but it’s very hard to fake their height! Surely they can incorporate both – a child must be at least X age or reaches 148cms in height. Surely the safety of our children should come before anything else including something being ‘easier’!
So until that is decided I shall continue to transport my son in his booster seat until a) the law is changed to something more sensible, or b) he discovers he actually doesn’t ‘have’ to be in it, or c) he reaches 148cms tall.
In the meantime, I guess I better tell my mum that it’s not ‘illegal’ to transport my son without the booster (as was my belief), but that it does make him much safer, and I guess I will still continue to get strange looks from the other parents when I ensure my son has a booster in their car, but at the end of the day I want my child to travel as safely as possible because I could not live with myself if I did not take all steps to ensure this.