Thursday, 6 September 2012

Planning a road trip? 4 Tips on how to pack safely!

When I think of New Zealand one thing springs to mind - road trips! Spring has finally arrived and I'm already planning adventures around beautiful Aotearoa. Times have changed now though, and since becoming  a parent I can no longer just hop in the car and go. I am no longer the car free traveler of yesteryear. My trips are now planned with military precision, the car is packed with everything but the kitchen sink, and we cruise to the laid back sounds of "the wiggles". 

With all these "relaxing" trips to look forward to, learning how to pack your cargo securely will protect your most precious cargo of all (your kids)!  

Here are some of the car seat lady's tips for traveling safely! 

  1. Prioritise what you pack:   If you don't need it, or can get it when you get to your destination, don't bring it.   
  2. Put it in the boot:  Pack the heaviest items in the boot - and if you need to have items in the passenger area, make sure they are the lightest items you are taking (like extra pillows, etc).  If you don't have a separate boot but there is a 3rd row of seats, try keeping the seats up to serve as a barrier between the cargo and the passengers.  Pack the heaviest items against the back of the vehicle seat and the lightest items closest to the boot opening.  When you slam on the brakes, the nose of the car goes down - making the things closest to the boot opening the most likely to fly up and over into the passenger area - so make these items the lightest ones that you are packing.  Note: the horizontal cargo covers that come with most SUVs and wagons will not keep cargo restrained - they are simply so that no one can see what you have in your trunk. 
  3. Keep your pets safe- and keep yourself safe from your pet:   A 20lb dog will weigh 600lbs in a 30mph crash.  Try to harness your pet in, IMMI, our a US company that makes a pet harness that is crash tested and can keep your dog from flying around in the event of a crash.It works for both small and large dogs and allows the dog to sit or lie down - but will prevent the dog from flying around the car in a crash (and from jumping on top of your child during a regular car ride).   Make sure you research the harness you buy as many dog harnesses will break in a crash situation. 
  4. The OUCH Test:  When giving your child a toy in the car, try to make it as soft and lightweight as possible.  Not sure if the toy would hurt - do the ouch test - take the toy, hit yourself in the head - if you have to say ouch it would likely hurt if it hit the child in a crash.  One other thing that fails the ouch test - the mirrors that you can place on the rear head rest to see the baby.  Not only are they a danger to the baby - but they are also a danger to everyone else in the car as they are a distraction to the driver - encouraging the driver to stare at their very cute baby, instead of the road ahead.

Friday, 24 August 2012

ISOFIX- What's it all about?

 "International Standards Organisation FIX"

ISOFIX or LATCH (in American)! is an innovative car seat design that eliminates the need for a seat belt. The result - a fool proof way to secure your car seat in a vehicle, hence I'm a big fan!

In a nutshell, ISOFIX is a standard system for securing car seats into cars without having to use the adult seat belt. Instead it attaches the car seat to anchor points already fitted in the car. ISOFIX is super because it solves incompatibility problems, reduces the risk of incorrect installation and (my own personal favorite) eliminates the hassle of fiddling around with seat belts! 

Most cars manufactured after 2006 and some before will have the required anchor points for the use of an ISOFIX car seat. Two points will be located where the seat cushion of the car meets the back cushion (as per the below image). Unfortunately if your car does not have the anchor points required for ISOFIX, they cannot be retrofitted. Be sure to check that your car has the required anchor points (particularly if yours is an older model!) before you buy an ISOFIX car seat. Take a look at the back seat of your car, near the buckle. Look for the symbol (above) on a button or a fabric patch, In the absence of this symbol, feel between the seat cushions for the anchor points as they are not always visible.

Some car seats can be secured in a car with either an ISOFIX system or the traditional seat belt system.You need never use both seat belt and ISOFIX together, it will not enhance the safety of your car seat by doing so. 

Ultimately ISOFIX is not deemed "safer" than the seat belt system, it does however reduce the high occurrence of incorrectly installed child seats and that's good enough in my book!


Monday, 20 August 2012

Is your child in the right seat?

Different ages, different stages and an array of different car seat brands can make knowing what car seat your child should be in a little confusing! 

Even though most parents know the safest place for their babies and children is in the back seat, figuring out which type of car seat is best, including when it's safe to turn baby from rear facing to forward facing, can be a challenge. 

Kids grow at different rates, so knowing when to move your child from one place to the next is important. Remember, it's stage, not age! Age ranges should be viewed as recommendations only. What's important is that your child's height and weight sits within the car seats's stated range.

A good way to break it down is into 3 stages. This covers from birth to around 12 years of age.

Stage 1- Rear Facing Child Restraints-
Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit stated by your car seat’s manufacturer.
Stage 2 - Forward Facing Child Restraints-
Applies to kids who have outgrown their child safety seat's rear-facing height or weight limits.  If your child is still within the height and weight limits for rear-facing, they should REMAIN rear-facing.  Rear-facing is 5 times safer than  forward-facing for those kids still at Stage 1!
Stage3-Booster Seats-
Don’t rush to “graduate” your child to a booster seat. Kids below the maximum height and weight limit for your car seat are much safer in a 5-point harness. If your child still fits in their 5-point harness car seat, then they're not ready to move to a booster!

Check out NZ Child Restraints to learn more about these different seats 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Do you know the lifespan of your car capsule?

How long do you expect your car capsule to last? 

When buying a car capsule, new parents would often expect that one car capsule could be used for all their (potential) future children. 

Unfortunately, car capsules have a lifespan and therefore can only be used for as long as the manufacturer states.


Car capsules generally  have a lifespan of about 5-10 years. This is from their date of manufacture, not from when they are purchased. Therefore it's important to always check the date of manufacture on the back of a car capsule before you buy it. 

The lifespan does not depend on how well the seat was looked after, or how many children have used the seat; and that lifespan becomes zero after the car capsule has been in a car accident.

Expiry Dates

All car seats will have their expiry date stamped on to them. They can be found either on the back or bottom of the seat. If you can't see yours, take a look under the covers. 

NZ Child Restraints have some really helpful charts that will help you identify them:

Thursday, 2 August 2012

To Tether or not Tether? That's the question!

Tether straps, who needs 'em?  Not every standard and not every car seat is the answer!

Many people in Australasia are under the impression that a tether strap is an essential safety feature on a car seat. This is a misconception. In Australia, by law, every car seat must have a tether strap, which means only car seats built to the Australian standard may be used; whereas in New Zealand we accept car seats built to the Australian, European and American standard!

This is where it gets confusing. Australian car seats must have an upper tether strap for forward and rear facing; whilst American car seats only require a single forward-facing tether strap; and to really confuse everyone, European car seats require no tether strap!

No standard is necessarily safer than another. If your car seat requires a tether strap it must be tethered and that is the law! If you car seat requires no tether strap, don't fret - it's designed and safety-tested not to need one!

                                                 Forward facing and Rear Facing example.

A tether strap is an adjustable webbing strap found secured to the top back of your child's car seat shell with a metal hook attached. Some cars will require an extent ion strap so the tether can reach the bolt (these come in 300mm and 600mm lengths). The purpose of the top tether strap is to reduce head excursion, that is, "the distance the child's head moves during an impact".

Thursday, 19 July 2012

How do I choose the right carseat for my child?

So many carseats so little time!

Car capsules, car seats, child restraints - whatever you want to call them are fast becoming, an important item on a first time parents list of endless things to get! These plastic baby carriers are the vital tool that ensures parents can escape their home, and bring baby with them safely.

Obviously as a new parent safety is your main concern when choosing a carseat, but when you're operating on little sleep simply getting to the supermarket with as little hassle as possible becomes your main priority.
Believe me the last thing you want is to be unprepared-  you don't want to be fiddling with the seatbelt, with a bad back,whilst bubs is screaming blue murder and your bottom is hanging out the car door.

You need a carseat that is not only safe but simple! I for one, can't abide over complicated instructions ,so for me simply picking a car seat that did it's job, whilst being fool proof  was the way to go.
When people ask 'What sort of carseat do I need?' The answer should always be:
  • The one that fits your child.
  • The one that fits your vehicle.
  • The one that you use correctly every time.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Tips for buying a car seat

Firm harness fit
  • Only one finger width should fit between the child's chest and harness
  • The harness should be firm enough if you cannot pinch the straps.
No twisted harness straps or pull cord
Rear facing car seats
  • Your child's head should be below the top of the car seat shell*
  • The harness should meet the seat at or slightly below the child's shoulders, with the exception of car seats that comply with the AUS/NZ standard*
Forward facing car seats
  • Your child's eye level should be below the top of the car seat shell*
  • The harness should be at or just above the child's shoulders*
Booster seats
  • The car seat belt must be positioned across the chest & pelvis not the neck & stomach