John Weekes

John Weekes is an NZME News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Royal visit: Plunket ignores own safety guidelines for prince

Aethalia O'Connor of Plunket with the car seat installed facing forward in the royal limo. Photo / Plunket
Aethalia O'Connor of Plunket with the car seat installed facing forward in the royal limo. Photo / Plunket

Plunket is in the hotseat after breaching its own infant safety guidelines by installing Prince George's child restraint back-to-front in the royal limo.

The baby-care agency issued photos of preparations for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's visit, showing Plunket car seat services technician Aethalia O'Connor installing a seat in the car to be used by the royals.

"If it can't be installed correctly we need to work out a way we can make it correct," she said. "We need to make sure the baby is safe."

The problem was, the car seat was installed facing forward, at odds with Plunket's official guidelines.

To limit the risk of whiplash, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children remain rear-facing until age 2 or until they reach the seat's height limit.

Response to the photo was immediate, with dozens of parents going online to point out Plunket's double standard.

Plunket has previously criticised photos of babies in forward-facing restraints, but last night it was unapologetic.

Chief executive Jenny Prince said Plunket's role was "to provide advice and work in partnership with parents" to make informed decisions that worked best for them. "Plunket's priority is to ensure car seats are installed by qualified car seat technicians to ensure they perform correctly. While Plunket recommend that children stay in rear-facing seats until age 2, it is not a legal requirement."

Plunket spokesman Zac Prendergast said he had spoken to O'Connor, and the seat was installed in line with the parents' preferences.

Last year, the Herald on Sunday reported that random roadside checks by Plunket and police found up to 80 per cent of child restraints were installed incorrectly.

Tots on Tour child restraint technician Lucy Wilkinson said many parents were still unaware of the dangers of placing their toddlers in a forward-facing seat.

"We recommend to keep them rearward-facing for as long as possible basically."

- Herald on Sunday

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