ISOFIX. Why is Australia still waiting?
It’s now more than a year since the Australian/New Zealand standard for child restraints (AS/NZS 1754:2013) was amended to allow the sale in Australia of ISOFIX compatible child seats, but they’re still not available to buy. Why?
WHEN THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT ISOFIX compatible child restraints would be allowed to be sold in Australia, parenting blogs applauded long and loud. Indeed, go and Google ‘ISOFIX Australia’ and see what you find (182,000 results, to be precise) and most are forum sites asking when Australians will be allowed to buy and fit ISOFIX compatible child seats now that the standards have been amended.
But, more than 12 months after the standard was amended, there’s still not a single ISOFIX compatible child seat available to purchase in Australia. And, if this recent response from Britax Australia, posted in a comment on this site, is anything to go by, it doesn’t look like they’ll be appearing on the market any time soon.
“Please find below our standard reply for enquiries in regards to 2013 Standard products and ISOFIX.
“Thank you for your patience. We are working through the steps to introduce Safe-n-Sound/Britax ISOFIX compatible child restraints in to the Australian market. Although the revised Australian Standard was introduced in June last year we need to conduct a variety of testing and then gain certification.
“We expected that we would be able to get child restraints on the market more quickly which unfortunately has been delayed by a number of hurdles. As soon as we are able to launch the ISOFIX compatible child restraints and other new products we will provide advice on Facebook and Twitter.”
What’s the hold up?
Well, the problem seems to be around the size of the Australian market and the cost associated with re-engineering existing child restraints. See, the Australian standard says that any ISOFIX compatible child restraint sold in Australia must also be able to be secured via a seatbelt, meaning it has to have ISOFIX points, a top tether and also the seatbelt fit. It also has to undergo more stringent testing, covering frontal impact test, side impact test and oblique impact test; these three test requirements are unique to Australia.
While meeting that testing requirement might be one part of the delay in seeing ISOFIX compatible child restraints on the Australian market, it also means that the seats currently available for sale in Australia are extremely safe.
Why don’t I just import an ISOFIX compatible child restraint from overseas?
If the parenting blogs and forum sites are anything to go by, indeed, there have been similar comments on this site, parents are doing just that, going online and ordering an ISOFIX compatible child restraint. There’s just one catch, and that is that installing an overseas-purchased ISOFIX compatible child restraint is illegal. As such, Practical Motoring can’t condone this course of action.
Not all ISOFIX compatible child restraints are created equal?
Currently there are two types of ISOFIX systems:
Universal ISOFIX, which is used in Europe and the UK, has the two ISOFIX points at the back of the restraint (locking into the seat) and a top tether, but it can also be used without utilising the ISOFIX points and just using the seatbelt and top tether;
Semi-Universal ISOFIX is employed in America and requires the ISOFIX points at the back of the seat and a third anchor point which is not a top tether – in the US they use a support leg.
If you read the Australian standard, it more closely reflects the use of Universal ISOFIX, so, why is it taking so long for these seats to make it onto the Australian market. No-one really knows, indeed, Britax, which was the first company to offer a range of ISOFIX compatible child restraints to European customers, says it’s ability to offer ISOFIX compatible child restraints is down to “a number of hurdles”.
That said, it’s not exactly plain sailing for ISOFIX compatible child restraints in Europe. See, because car seat cushions don’t have a set standard in terms of seat height, density or angle, many child restraint makers are tested and approved for use in certain car models only.
It’s worth highlighting that despite what you might read on forum sites in Australia, Universal ISOFIX (the type used in Europe and the UK) requires the use of a top tether, while in America they use a support leg that essentially performs the same function, and that is to stop the child restraint moving forward in a collision.
What is ISOFIX?
There’s a misunderstanding that the ISOFIX system is safer than the current type of child restraint being used in Australia. It isn’t. It is, however, easier to use and designed to ensure, amongst other things, that the child restraint doesn’t move. And I’m sure we’ve all fitted a child restraint to a car and been unable to get that last little bit of wriggle out of it – Practical Motoring recommends having an accredited professional fit your child restraint.
The ISOFIX system offers anchor points (push-style latch) in the back seat of a car; the location and type of anchor are standard across all vehicles, which means any ISOFIX compatible child restraint will be able to fitted into any car with the ISOFIX system installed. Sort of. Because, as mentioned above, not all rear seats are the same, and so ISOFIX compatible child restraints can only be fitted to the car they’ve been tested and accredited for. Confusing.
The ISOFIX system has two anchorage points at the rear of a standard back car seat, it’s usually labelled with the words ISOFIX. These points are where an ISOFIX compatible child restraint latches onto the car seat’s ISOFIX mountings; these points are fixed to the vehicle’s chassis ensuring that once the child restraint has been locked onto the car’s ISOFIX mounting point the child restraint won’t move.