This week I spoke to Kelly from Child Restraint Installations Australia (formerly Helpful Hands) about some of the common mistakes that parents make installing car restraints. Kelly is an accredited installer and tells me that up to 90% of DIY car seat installs that she checks are incorrect or could be improved to make them safer! She shares some great information in our interview (you can read the transcript below)
Car safety is such an important topic, can you tell us what got you into this field?
One major reason is that in 2010 I was involved in a collision with a drunk driver. We were coming back from an eighteenth birthday party and my three children were trapped in the back of the car. It happened at midnight, I had seen her on the road previously and she almost went through a red light, then a couple of intersections later she actually hit us. Also in 2010 the laws changed, so it was all around the same time and there was a lot of confusion, I was very confused, so I thought if I am confused there are many other parents out there who are confused and need help. I didn’t know where to go and so I started researching and in 2013 I became accredited with Roadwise after training with Kidsafe.
Wow that is quite a story! Great that you have decided to help parents because as I said this is such an important topic. What are some of the common mistakes that people make in relation to car seat safety?
Correctly installing an infant seat is the major one; not using the top tether, putting the seatbelt through the incorrect placement on the restraint, not using the harness correctly, twisted straps is a really major issue, some head blocks because the installation of the seat is not correct, not having the seatbelt tight enough through the pathway, incorrect placement within the vehicle for example when the restraint is jammed into the front seat because people think it is more secure that way, there are hundreds of different mistakes people make without realising and they all do play a part in what could then become an outcome if you were involved in a collision.
Oh gosh! Definitely something that is important to get right, do you have any statistics around the importance of correct installation?
Statistics state that 75% of car seats are incorrectly installed or used. Out of the hundreds, or actually thousands of seats that I have done, I have seen probably six seats now that have been correctly used and they were from the same family! You just walk through the car park as a fitter and see just the slight differences that if you are involved in a collision, could change the way that the restraint actually acts. It is important that you get all of the information correct and that you are shown how to use the seat from day dot, not when something has already happened, you want to know that your child will be safe if you are involved in a collision.
What services do you offer through your business Child Restraint Installations Australia?
I offer a mobile service from Mandurah to Joondalup. I mainly operate south of the river but I do go out to Midland, Morley, Scarborough, Carramar and I have been able to go to Two Rocks. I also have contacts that I can put you in touch with, although one lady has just had an injury so I am covering where she is unable to go, however I mainly operate south of the river. It is a massive area but my services are really needed, there aren’t enough people like myself out there with the experience in not only fitting child seats but also knowing what restraint to use. For example, sometimes I meet people at the shops as well; Kmart, Big W, baby shops, wherever your budget suits, I will actually meet you and we will go through the range and choose a seat that suits your vehicle, number one, and your child, number two, and show you how to fit it as well.
I think that is a really unique service, I have used an accredited restraint installer but they didn’t help me pick the seat, which can be confusing with so many products on the market.
Well there are hundreds of seats on the market and there are thousands of vehicles and that restraint you choose may not suit your vehicle. So that $750 seat and the $150 seat actually work the same, they have to meet the same standards, but it how that restraint actually fits your vehicle and your child, that is what the focus should be on.
That is the mistake a lot of parents make, where they go and buy the most expensive seat thinking that is going to give the best protection for their child. If the seat does not fit into the vehicle then it is not going to do what it has been designed to do. So it is about finding a restraint that suits your vehicle and suits your child, and your budget and requirements, and then knowing how to fit it correctly and maintain it as the child grows.
There are so many things to consider it is definitely worth outsourcing I think! Are there any other services that you offer in terms of car seats?
Yes we have just introduced hire into our service about three months ago which is really taking off. I’m mainly focusing on capsules at the moment and prem babies is something where there is a real need for it as many restraints won’t fit prems because of their weight. So I have many capsules here that are specifically designed for smaller babies. I do short term hire – 4 – 6 weeks- until your baby actually fits the restraint that you have purchased. Unfortunately with a lot more babies being born early there is a real need in the market and some of these babies also have medical needs as well e.g. hip dysplasia, breathing problems, heart problems. I had a little baby a while ago that had open heart surgery, so it was about making sure that the restraint fit that baby with the wound underneath his arm and his chest, so quite a lot to it.
And there is the emotional support; I have a lovely relationship with my clients, I am almost like family to them, we build this trust over time and they come back time and time again. Even though I show them how to do it, and they are quite capable of doing it, but they like me to come back and touch base, also checking their child in the seat. One lady she needed me to stay, she was having a hard day with the children, so I stayed for an hour and had a cup of coffee with her to make sure she had that support system and then she was fine, and I thought ok I can leave now! I can’t do that with everyone but there are little interesting things that happen and each client gets what they need. Sometimes they just need the fitting and others need a bit more emotional support as well.
Wow what a great service! How can we get in contact with you?
My website has now changed. It is www.cria.com.au
My phone number is 0423 036 503 I am available as long as I’m not asleep!
I also want people to know that there is no such thing as a silly question, if you’re having that issue it is likely someone else is too, and if I can’t find the answer I have the resources to find out and we will solve it together! I’m not about selling, I am about education so for you as a parent it is about learning and what you need to know going forward.