CREP report card: ISOFIX child restraints not always the best option

1 August, 2016

NEW Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) ratings have revealed that ISOFIX compatible child car seats compared with the traditional seatbelt-retaining system are not necessarily safer when choosing a vehicle child restraint.

ISOFIX is an alternate car restraint attachment method that doesn't use an adult seatbelt. Only ISOFIX restraints that meet Australian standards are acceptable by law.

CREP awards each child restraint and booster seat tested a star rating for protection and ease of use, with five stars being the highest rating possible for each category. No boosters were assessed in this series of testing.

The program - supported by a group of government agencies and motoring organisations, including RACV, VicRoads and the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) - helps parents to choose the safest restraint for their child.

Four ISOFIX compatible restraints installed with both the ISOFIX connectors and the traditional adult seatbelt method were tested in this series.

The result was a minimal difference in safety performance between the models of restraints that were tested with and without ISOFIX anchorages. It also shows that ISOFIX compatible restraints are not always safer than seats installed with a seatbelt.

RACV Manager Road User Behaviour, Melinda Spiteri said there may be a perception in the market place that ISOFIX anchorages are superior to the traditional seatbelt method but this latest series of testing has found otherwise.

 “What this testing shows is that not all car seats offer the same level of protection. RACV advises parents to choose a restraint that performs better in crash testing and that is easier to use rather than the way it is anchored,” she said.

For the first time the CREP testing included an ISOFIX compatible rearward facing restraint for children up to 2.5 years old; the Safe-n-Sound Platinum SICT. The restraint received good results with three stars in rearward facing mode and four stars in forward facing mode.

The Infa-Secure Trident II Deluxe restraint received four stars in rearward facing mode when installed with a seatbelt and three stars when installed via the ISOFIX attachments. The forward mode only achieved two stars.

“Convertible restraints are often compromised in one mode and parents need to be aware of this. If you are intending on using the restraint in both modes then you should look at the performance of the restraint in both modes and choose one that performs well in each.

“Manufacturers needed to work harder to improve the level of protection offered by the restraints in order to achieve a maximum five star rating,” she said.

VicRoads Director Vehicle and Road Use Policy, Robyn Seymour reminded everyone transporting children that they are legally required to ensure all passengers are correctly restrained.  

“Everyone in a vehicle must be appropriately restrained in the correct restraint for their size whether that is a child restraint, an adult seatbelt or the combination of a booster seat and adult seatbelt,” Ms Seymour said.

More than 500 children are killed around the world and thousands injured as a result of road trauma every day. TAC Senior Manager Road Safety, Samantha Cockfield said every parent had a responsibility to ensure their children were protected on the roads.

“We know parents take their children’s safety extremely seriously and CREP allows them to make informed decisions when they are looking for a restraint,” Ms Cockfield said.

Child road fatalities in Australia have decreased by more than 65 per cent since CREP was established in 1992. Testing is conducted throughout the year to ensure that parents are always armed with up-to-date information.

RACV, TAC and VicRoads urges all parents and carers to view the latest child car seat test results and see which models provide the best protection for their child. Children under seven are required by law to travel in the rear seat of a vehicle and it is recommend that all children 12 years and under travel in the rear seat.

Parents and carers can visit an RACV fitting station to have a restraint installed by an expert – call 13 RACV or visit racv.com.au/childrestraints

All of the restraints tested meet the 2013 Australian standard for child restraints. The full results are available from childcarseats.com.au and parents and carers can now easily compare different models.

 The road rules in Victoria require:

  • A child under six months to travel in a rearward facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness. 
  • A child aged six months to under four years to travel in either a rearward facing or forward facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness. The type of child restraint will depend on the child’s size.
  • A child aged four years to under seven years to travel in either a forward facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness, or a booster seat. The type of restraint will depend on the child’s size.
  • A child aged seven years to under 16 years to travel in either a booster seat or an adult seatbelt. The type of restraint will depend on the child’s size.
  • A person 16 years and over to travel in an adult seatbelt.
Written by Lynette Keogh, RACV Public Affairs on 9790 2752
August 01, 2016