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From time to time we get asked about the laws regarding kids and car restraints once they reach the age of 7 years. Basically the law states that up until the age of 7 years children must be seated in a booster seat. Most children move out of a booster into an adult seat around 7 years of age, even though children at this age aren't physically big enough to use adult seat belts safely.
I often see kids sitting in the front seat of cars and it does cause for concern because a lot of parents and caregivers aren’t aware of the dangers of kids sitting in the front of a car. While there are no laws regarding this, research has found there are great risks associated with placing young children in the front seat of a vehicle. Industry experts such as Kidsafe, the NRMA and RACQ recommend to not place a child in the front of a car until at least the age of 12 years.
Late last year there was an article published on the ABC website discussing new research and guidelines released by Neuroscience Research Australia and Kidsafe, which recommends children under 12, unless they have reached a minimum height, be seated in a booster seat as long as possible and sit only in the back seat.
Professor Lynne Bilston is based at Neuroscience Research Australia and is lead author of the guidelines:
"Because their legs aren't long enough they slouch down until their knees bend in front of the seat, and that means that their back is not upright against the back of the seat and the seat belt – the lap belt – instead of sitting over the hip bones, it actually rides up and sits across the abdomen," Bilston says.
"So in a crash they go further underneath that seat belt and most of the force of the crash ends up in their abdomen and they end up with serious abdominal injuries, and in more severe crashes they end up with spinal injuries as well."
It's also recommended that children younger than 12 sit only in the back seat due to the risks posed by airbags.
"The issue with air bags is that they come out at 160 to 200 kilometres an hour," Bilston says, "With an adult, the seat belt and the air bag are designed to work together. But with a child, because they are shorter, think of the arc that the head goes through, they can actually be in the line of the airbag... and so you can get the air bag inflate under the chin and force the head back. And you want to make sure that doesn't happen."
Bilston says if you cannot avoid having a younger child in the front seat, then ensure the seat is as far back as possible so the child is further away from the airbag.”
You can also read the guidelines in full on the Neara website by clicking here.
If you are still unsure, check vehicle and restraint manufacturer’s recommendations regarding airbags – you can sometimes find these on the passenger seat visor of the car or if not, read your car manual.
Even if the airbag isn’t active or switched off, there are other dangers associated with young kids sitting in the front seat of a car:
Britax have just released a new booster seat aimed at 4yrs up to 10 years of age. You can find out more by clicking on our website here or drop in for a look and a chat!
If you want to find out more information have a look on the Kidsafe website.