New research shows child booster seats as safe as harness restraints in crashes

New research out of Australia has shown child booster seats perform just as well as harness restraints in crashes.

But New Zealand experts want parents to understand that each child is unique, and that car seats are far from one size fits all.

With so many options to choose from it can be hard for parents to know which car seat is best.

Five-year-old Leo is in a newer harness restraint while big sister Abbey uses a traditional booster seat with an adult seatbelt.

"I like that I can do myself up and it's like the seat that mummy and daddy sit in," Abbey says.

New research from Neuroscience Research Australia shows that booster seats like Abbey's are at least as good, if not better, than harness seats.

"Parents at the moment have this option and they didn't have any information about which one was safer," says Neuroscience Research Australia Professor Lynne Bilston.

Researchers put these two styles of seats through 20 simulated collisions.

Using a child-size crash test dummy, they were able to compare how far forward a child's head would move in a crash. They found that for children aged four-eight years old, booster seats are at least as good, if not better at restraining a child's head.

Child passenger safety advocate Danielle Beh wants Kiwi parents to understand, age is far from the only determining factor.

"If a child is too short and they are sitting in a booster seat the adult seatbelt will go across their neck and their abdomen where the soft organs are and in a crash that seatbelt will act like a knife," she says.

So if you are looking at graduating your child to a booster seat, this is what you need to look out for.

"The sash portion needs to sit on your shoulder, and the lap portion needs to sit on the thighs going across the hip bones. There are strong bones there that protect you in a crash," Beh says.

Correctly installing your child's car seat is equally important.

Researcher Julie Chambers would like to see the government invest more in education.

"People actually find out that they've been driving around for months that they didn't install their car seat properly and we need to do better than that," she says.

Changes that could make a big difference to little lives.