Friday, 16 August 2013

Car seat trends around the world




The world of car seats is a complex one, filled with standards specific to different countries and with a wide array of options. If you’re looking for a car seat, no doubt you’ve discovered this while doing your research. At the heart of this world is ‘safety’. Here’s a snapshot of car seat trends and standards around the world.


The hot topic in car seat safety is the rear vs forward facing debate. In Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) it’s the norm to have your child rear facing up to 4 years old. Whereas in the rest of Europe, US, NZ and Australia, it has long been the norm to rear face until the child has turned one, with turning the car seat around being considered a right of passage on a child’s first birthday. In the last five years we have started to see a change to this and recommendations are to wait until a child is two years before forward facing them. In New Zealand and the UK, it is recommended to wait until a child is between 1 and 2 years old to start forward facing.  


This debate considers traditional car seats which are not the only option. Europe also uses the shield system which acts as a guardian to lock the child into place in the seat. While this is a relatively new concept for New Zealand parents, this innovative and forward thinking concept has a solid and proven record of crash test results. It is considered to be safer than a 5-point harness in the event of an accident. On impact, it absorbs the force of a collision over a larger area of the child’s body and significantly reduces the extreme neck bending if the body was harnessed and held from the shoulders. This is widely considered to be a great alternative to  extended rear facing and has exceptional safety reviews and feedback from parents.

Another emerging trend is ISOFIX (known as LATCH in the US), an increasingly popular system in New Zealand for car seat installation. This system allows car seats to be fixed into sockets on a car's chassis, enabling a quick installation and greatly reduces the likelihood that a car seat is installed incorrectly.  


That brings us to the tether strap. In Australia all car seats must have tether straps and all vehicles manufactured in Australia are required to have a tether fixing point. In New Zealand, if your car seat has a tether strap it must be used to ensure it is installed securely.


Car seat standards differ around the world. In New Zealand we recognise four standards - the Australian, European and American standards, as well as Japanese inbuilt seats. All car seats on sale in retail stores in New Zealand must be certified to one of these standards. It is important to use a trained or certified installer to ensure that a car seat is the right fit for your car and is installed correctly.

For more information on car seat safety, visit http://safercarseats.org/ - Helping Parents Unlock the World of Car Seats!