Motor safety has undoubtedly come a long way in the last fifty years or so - anyone growing up in the 60s and 70s will have had a very different experience as a child in the car to children today. To say that things were more relaxed is an understatement! Those were the days before routine product testing, stringent safety regulations (and some would say common sense) weren't as prevalent and the number of accident compensation claims was definitely fewer. A lot of us even made it through alive!
Here are some of the things that today's kids would find hard to believe about the car trips their parents took:
- Seatbelts optional
Today kids have grown up knowing from a very early age that seatbelts click on as soon as they get into the car, they could save our lives in case of an accident and it's completely automatic. But it wasn't until the early 70s that seatbelt wearing became compulsory in certain states. In fact, seatbelts weren't even fitted in the back of cars as a standard.
- Kids in the front seat
The most coveted place in the car was the passenger seat when mum or dad was driving, this gave kids special status on car journeys, and there would be many fights about whose turn it was to ride in the front. In fact, many cars had a bench style seat in the front, meaning that kids could even squeeze in between adults or sometimes sit on the lap of the driver, without a concern about getting in an accident!
- Child and infant seat standards
The early versions of child and infant seats would most likely horrify parents today. Whilst they would contain an infant to some degree, they were certainly lacking in the mandatory protection features of today such as side impact bars and five-point harnesses.
- Smoking in the car
It was the norm for parents to smoke in the car with the kids, we didn't know then about the serious dangers of passive smoking. Cars were fitted with ashtrays and cigarette lighters, instead of today's drink holders and USB slots.
Since 2009, it is actually against the law to smoke in the car if a minor (under 16) is on board.
In the 60s and 70s, it was considered perfectly normal to both hitchhike and pick up hitchhikers on a journey. It is totally legal to hitchhike in Cairns or the rest of Australia, as long as you aren't obstructing traffic. But it is more unusual to see someone hitching a ride and certainly not as likely that they will actually be picked up.
These days we are certainly more aware of the dangers of strangers and sadly need to be more mindful of our personal safety. Infamous murder cases, such as the Australian Ivan Milat, the 'Backpacker Killer', and many horror movies have cautioned us.