Tonia Scoullar, Otago-Southland Plunket car seat
co-ordinator, shows the correct way to put Van Bennett (4)
into a booster seat. Photo by Craig Baxter.
While most New Zealand drivers transport children only in
approved car seats, an Otago-Southland Plunket manager says
more than half of those seats are not being used correctly,
putting children at risk.
Inspections of more than 2100 child restraints throughout
Southland in the past 20 months showed 51% were either not
installed or used properly, Otago-Southland car seat services
manager Kathryn Impelmans said.
Checks were carried out regularly in Invercargill, Gore,
Queenstown and four small Southland towns.
The most common faults found were twisted or loose harnesses
or the tether strap not even being used at all, she said.
The high incidence of incorrect use was concerning, she said.
''If a child is not held in the correct position in its seat
there is a greater chance of the child being injured in a
collision. If the harnesses are too loose, the child could
come out altogether.''
Dunedin Plunket staff also carried out regular checks, she
said. While their inspection results were not collated in the
same detailed way as those in Southland, Mrs Impelmans said
staff believed the incidence of incorrect use in Dunedin was
also running about 50%.
The Ministry of Transport does regular surveys to see how
many children are being transported in approved child
The latest survey showed 95% of drivers stopped were
transporting children aged between 5 and 9 in appropriate car
seats, as were 92% of drivers transporting under-5s.
But Mrs Impelmans, who is based in Invercargill, said those
surveys were observational and based only on whether children
were in car seats, not whether the seat was installed
correctly or being used correctly.
Most parents and grandparents using car seats wanted to do
the right thing, Mrs Impelmans said.
''Most of them don't realise they are making a mistake,'' she
In Southland, Plunket, Road Safety Southland and New Zealand
Police were working together to try to improve correct
installation and use rates, Mrs Impelmans said.
That included inspecting more than 1000 car seats annually
through a co-ordinated Seen and Safe programme, visiting 15
local kindergartens annually, and inspecting car seats free
for any driver who wanted a check.
Correct use of car seats had improved by about 5%-8% since
Seen and Safe began four years ago Mrs Impelmans said, and it
was hoped rates would improve further as the programme and
other campaigns continued.
Dunedin-based Plunket community services leader Catherine
Caley said the Seen and Safe programme did not operate in
Dunedin but she would like to see it extended to the city if