What are ISOFIX car seats?

Posted by: Cal on 30/09/2014

Category: General

If you often drive with children in your car, chances are you already keep an eye on your tyre maintenance to ensure your vehicle is as safe as possible.

However, a new development in the car industry could be another step you can take to improve your children's safety when you are behind the wheel. The Australian Government has just revealed changes to the mandatory safety standard that allow ISOFIX child restraints to be used legally in Australia.

What are ISOFIX child restraints?

ISOFIX is an international child restraint system that differs slightly to what is currently offered Down Under, bringing Australia into line with other countries around the world. That is not to say that the current seats on offer are not safe, but rather that there are now more options available for Aussie parents.

The Australian option is called ISOFIX compatible and in order to use the ISOFIX seat restraints, cars will need to be fitted with ISOFIX anchorage points, as these car seats are not installed using the traditional car seat belt. These must be used in addition to the top tether strap. 

The ISOFIX attachments are then clipped into two rigid or flexible anchorage points at the back car seat. This is believed to be a safer option as it will restrict the amount of movement seen between the child seat and the belt clip in the event of a car crash.

Why is ISOFIX a great option?

Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson, said that he would encourage all parents and carers to use approved safety devices, as these can protect loved ones in the event of a crash and may also be able to reduce injuries.

ISOFIX seats come in a range of sizes designed to fit different-aged kids, so no matter how old your children are, there will be a seat suitable for them. These options are also easier to install than other child seat restraints. This in itself may help to reduce the number of Australian children injured in motor vehicle accidents. A September 20 article in Car Advice states 88 per cent of infant car seats are installed incorrectly in Australia.

ISOFIX also provides a more solid and permanent connection between the car seat and the car chassis. This means less force will be applied to the child in the event of an accident.

Another advantage is that these seats feature a support leg or top tether that acts as an anti-tipping device, meaning the seat has increased stability and safety. 

What other changes have been made?

The same standard change also reveal other new additions to the child seat rules. For instance, parents and carers can now keep their children rear facing until they are two to three years old as there is a new category of restraint designed for this purpose. 

Many safety experts have long suggested that children be kept rear facing as long as possible. 

The new standard will also allow child restraints with an in-built harness to be used for children up to eight years old. Previously, this limit was capped at four years old. 

Which cars can use ISOFIX seat belts?

In order to use ISOFIX seat restraints, you car must be fitted with ISOFIX anchorage points. These are most commonly seen in newer models, and the Australian Government does not recommend retrofitting these.

If you are looking at getting a new set of wheels (and car tyres) it could also be worth looking out for ISOFIX points as well as the a five-star ANCAP safety rating, airbags, ABS and other safety equipment to give you peace of mind while on the road.