Seven in 10 parents putting kids at risk by not fitting car seats correctly

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

As parents, we're always thinking about our kids' welfare. However when it comes to understanding safety features in modern cars, it can sometimes feel like you're grappling with a foreign language.

EFTM's Motoring Editor Chris Bowen went to an SUV Family Safety day hosted by Holden and Kidsafe to help parents get their heads around the latest safety features.

Cars of 2019 have a range of active and passive safety measures, usually included with standard models. As SUVs continue to dominate sales, Holden wants families to fully grasp the safety features of their cars.

"Understanding active safety technology is a crucial factor in improving road safety," said Jeremy Tassone, Holden's General Manager of Vehicle Development, "yet most people outside of the automotive industry don't know what these technologies are or properly comprehend the benefits they bring." 

These features are just like a smoke alarm in your house - you may never need them but one day they could save your life.

Above all, there's one critical thing that we're just not getting right when it comes to child car safety.

What 7 in 10 parents are getting wrong

About 70 per cent of parents have their car seats fitted incorrectly. It's an alarming statistic which can have catastrophic consequences - and it can be easily remedied by correct installation.

Since the invention of ISOFIX anchors, installing a rearward or forward-facing seat is simple.

ISOFIX anchors are found either side of the of the vehicle's rear seat. They affix to straps on the base of the child seat. A top tether is still required and this is where many mistakes occur.


Kidsafe reports tethers being too tight, loose, twisted, wrapped around head restraints or even luggage straps.

The key to ensuring your child is properly secured is not just observing what the law requires regarding your child's age, but what size they are.

Every two months you should look at the visual strap indicators found on all child seats. Also slide two fingers in between the harness to ensure it's not overly tight but secure.

Plus, during the colder months remove bulky winter clothing, this hinders the seats performance by creating air gaps.

Here's a handy installation guide. There's also another video which details the installation of ISOFIX and tethered child car seats.

High-tech safety features of modern cars

Now that child car seat safety has been addressed, parents should also take the time to learn about their car's active safety features, which are designed to prevent a calamity.

Here are some of the high-tech features your new car might have, which help protect you and your family.

360-degree Reversing Camera

Imaging hovering directly above your car, via several cameras this technology provides an almost 100 per cent field of vision. This feature is especially important to spot a child, to avoid what Kidsafe call 'Low Speed Run Overs'. 

Rear Cross Traffic Alert

Reversing out of your driveway may sound like a simple act, but your view of oncoming traffic can be easily blocked by parked cars. This technology allows the revering camera to peak around corners, prompting you via visual and audible sounds to wait until the danger has passed.

Park Assist

Parking monitors both front and back and even graphical guidance systems are becoming the norm. This system allows you to visualise just how tight that spot really is.

Advanced Park Assist

SUVs come in all shapes and sizes and for some can be difficult to park. While you really should be capable of parallel or perpendicular parking, some vehicles like the Holden Acadia LTZ can do it autonomously. At the push of a button the Acadia can find a spot and perform the manoeuvre itself, all you do is control the brake.

Side Blind Spot Alert

We should all look over our shoulder when changing lanes. But inevitably mistakes do happen, the Side Blind Spot Alert is usually a light in the side mirrors, that will flash whenever something is unexpectedly alongside you. Many cars will also intervene via some corrective steering input or even a vibrating seat in Holden's case.

Lane Keep Assist 

We've all strayed off course occasionally. This camera-based system will give you a gentle nudge via the steering wheel to get you back on the straight and narrow. 

Traffic Sign Memory

The latest Holden SUV's can read traffic signs, there's no excuse for missing a speed sign. 


The car is an extension of your smartphones. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto software ensures you keep your eyes and hands off your phone. Holden has this software standard in every car, let alone SUV, it sells.

Passive Safety 

A prime example of this is Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). This allows the vehicle to slam on the brakes if you fail to do so.

Some AEB systems can even detect a pedestrian or cyclist. If a child comes flying out of a driveway chasing a soccer ball, there's a good chance this system will react before you do.

The overall structure and crumple zones of modern cars is designed to provide a safety cage for occupants. Don't ever let someone tell you "They don't make cars like they used to", because that's utter rubbish. 

Kidsafe revealed that in the "unintentional" category, that also includes drowning, the leading cause of death for children is transport related injuries. Both in car accidents and pedestrian incidents. 

Young children haven't developed full peripheral vision or the ability to judge the direction of sounds.

Roads are designed with adults in mind, not children.

Here's a rundown of the safety features you could encounter in a newer model car.

Chris Bowen travelled to Melbourne for the SUV Family Safety day as a guest of Holden.