Australia has some of the best safety requirements and some of the most advanced child passenger safety products available on the market to keep our children safe whilst they are travelling in a vehicle.

There have also been some fantastic advancements in technology associated with child passenger safety in the past few decades along with an increased awareness of what the “Road Rules” stipulate so parents and carers of children can keep their children safe whilst they are passengers in a vehicle.

However, when you consider each child passenger scenario is unique depending on your car, the product you purchase and your child there can be some confusion about what is best to keep your child safe each and every time you travel. This can lead to incorrect installation and unsafe use on a daily basis.

With a significant number of children seriously or fatally injured at the time of being a motor vehicle occupant, I believe more awareness and support is needed for parents and carers.

I talk to Rob Newman from the Australian Child Restraint Resource Initiative (ACRI) about his extensive experience in the area of child passenger safety. As we enter a new year and a new decade Safe Start Australia aims to increase awareness and confidence across Australia related to child passenger safety.

Whether you choose to install your child’s car seat or capsule yourself or weather you choose to use a qualified installation technician you still need to maintain the product and know what to look out for if the product is no longer suitable for your child or if the installation has been compromised through regular use.

When we share correct information and our own experiences we can learn a lot in the interest of childhood injury prevention and child passenger safety.

1. For those that haven’t heard of The Australian Child Restraint Resource Initiative (ACRI) what role does ACRI play in child passenger safety in Australia?

ACRI offers an inclusive training and support network open to anyone prepared to make a commitment to improving child passenger safety. ACRI is focussed on two goals

  1. Making a real difference in child transit safety, and
  2. Supporting our members in that aim

2. Could you please tell us about your background with ACRI and how the company came about?

I had been working in the child passenger safety field since the late 1980’s and in Victoria at that time the official system relied on an exclusive network of automotive businesses. By the 2000’s this model was lacking in many ways. One being if anyone wanted to specialise in this field could not gain official /sanctioned government support. NSW had a similar model although it was managed much better at the time. There were no other state-wide systems other than the Queensland Ambulance Capsule and related service offerings.

ACRI was formed to offer inclusive, specific training and support for Child Safety Seat service providers working in any field. With this aim in mind we developed a suite of specialised training programs. ACRI was the first to develop accredited training courses on the National Training Framework and the first to offer online training alternatives. In short, we pioneered many of the innovations that others use today. A few examples are the terms ‘Accredited’ and ‘Professional service provider’ which we started using for this field 15 years ago. Our catalogue is full of management tools that don’t exist anywhere else. Our main aim was to professionalise this activity that was and sadly is still casually practiced by some.

3. What are the most common things you see in your industry?

As mentioned above, we see casual attitudes employed every day at all levels. Many parents will find this hard to believe, but Safety Seats are life saving devices, however are widely regarded as grudge purchases in the community.

One observation relates to ‘free’ community checking events.  The feedback we get from our members involved with the delivery of such events highlights a casual attitude. It’s common to discuss a concern with a parent that has ‘worried’ them for a long time and yet they wait until there is a free event to have their ‘concerns’ checked.

I feel that all misuse and unsafe situations are created from either;

  1. A lack of real risk awareness
  2. Product unfamiliarity, and/ or
  3. A casual attitude
  4. Of course (3) will always affect the first two from being addressed effectively

4. What message would you like all new and expectant parents to know?

A parent’s passenger safety requirements are easy when the basics and attention to detail required are understood and addressed.  The best insight I think is for them to know that they need to get it correct everyday and that this process has to start with a parent investing time in properly knowing the product they have bought and what injury risks its designed to reduce. They should not solely rely on what a ‘fitter’ may do for them. We all have to ‘DO’ safety on every trip, so what an ‘Installer’ does for you once is largely irrelevant, if that’s all they provide.

Also, if a parent hears something that doesn’t sound right, is contradictory or challenges their common sense, it’s probably one of the multitudes of myths that populate this space. Confirm any queries by asking people who work in the field or call an ACRI member.

5.What positive changes in child passenger safety would you like to see in 2020?

That’s a tricky one, where can I start?  I would like to see a recognition that, travelling on our roads is a potentially dangerous activity and that a holistic approach is required. On it’s own, an individual’s driving ability may have little to do with the outcome.  You may be the best driver, have the safest vehicle or child safety seat, but there are other people and factors out there too. The smallest issue like a misplaced strap can cause an unnecessary injury.

Our safe return home is dependent to a great degree on attitude and attention to detail of every part of the activity we’re involved with. That activity is keeping your passengers safe, which of course involves the driving as well as seat belt and safety seat use and monitoring.

My greatest wish would be to see a change in the complacency that exists across all aspects of road travel. Parents who take ownership of their travel environments and do not solely rely on a road rule minimum or what a friend told them or what a fitter did once upon a time, will best serve their family in being safe on our roads.

Thanks for talking with me. – Rob Newman

Written by Nicolle Sharkey Founder of Safe Start Australia.

I write:

  • From Research
  • From Experience
  • From the Heart

Where to now?

To attend one of our education sessions please go to the dates and locations page and we hope to see you soon.

Australian Child Restraint Resource Initiative (ACRI)