In all Australian states, it is illegal for any child aged 7 years old or under to travel in a vehicle without proper child restraints. Once a child is over seven years old, a standard adult seatbelt can be used – providing the child is large enough. Depending on the age and size of your child, different restraints will come into play.
To help you keep your children safe while travelling in your car and ensuring you don’t land yourself on the wrong side of the law, our guide to the child restraint and car seat laws has you covered.
The Law Covering Child Restraints
According to Australian statewide law, the following must be adhered to at all times:
Any child under the age of seven years old must be securely fastened in a child restraint that meets the Australian and New Zealand standard of AS/NZS 1754. The restraint needs to be properly adjusted and fitted for their size and age at all times.
Visit Child car seats – Children – Staying safe for more about specific laws relating to NSW.
The minimum legal requirements depend on the age of the child being carried in the vehicle. Regardless of age, it is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that anyone under the age of 18 years old is securely fastened in the vehicle with the appropriate safety measures.
Children aged seven and older: Need to be securely fastened with either a child restraint or adult seatbelt.
Children between four and seven: Need to be securely restrained with the front-facing child restraint and inbuilt harness. They should not be seated in the front row of cars with two or more rows of seats unless all other occupants are under 7 years old
Children between 6 months and four years: can use either a forward-facing or rear-facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness. If the vehicle has two or more rows of seats, they MUST NOT be seated in the front row.
Children under 6 months: Young children aged six months or younger must always be secured using a rear-facing restraint and inbuilt harness. Again, they must never be placed in the front row of seats in any vehicle with two or more rows.
Using Approved Child Restraints
All and any car seats and child restraints purchased in Australia or New Zealand need to meet AS/NZS 1754 Standards. All restraints should have this standard label attached, either on the product or its packaging.
When looking to purchase any child restraint accessories, such as covers, seatbelt adjusters, inserts, etc, look for the label AS/NZS 8005.
When choosing accessories to use with your approved child restraints, it’s important that you only use those compatible with the restraints that you currently use. Purchasing non-compliant accessories could place your child in danger in the event of an accident.
How to Correctly Fit Booster Seats and Restraints
A properly fitted booster seat or child restraint can help minimise the risk of injury during an accident. However, it’s not always so straight-forward to get things in order.
The first thing you’ll want to do is check that the booster seat or restraint fits inside your vehicle. Most stores will have display models that you can use to weigh up the size before making a purchase. When it comes to child restraints, it’s recommended to have them professionally fitted to avoid any mistakes.
Roughly 70% of restraints are installed incorrectly, so following the manufacturer’s instructions properly is vitally important. If you would prefer to fit your own child restraints, the following can help.
- Check your car owners manual to locate the best anchorage points.
- Ensure that it is securely fitted against the seat and doesn’t come loose when pulled on.
- Regularly adjust the straps to reflect your child’s growth.
- Ensure that the restraint does not block access to other seat belts and buckles in the vehicle.
Child Restraints and Public Transport
When travelling by public transport, it is not a legal requirement for children to use child restraints in vehicles that do not have them – except in New South Wales. However, certain laws are still in place that need to be followed.
- Any child aged one-year-old or under must sit on an adult’s lap in the back row without sharing a seatbelt.
- In NSW, any child aged under 1 year old must use a booster seat or child restraint.
- Children aged 1 to 7 must be seated in the back row unless these seats are already in use by children aged younger than seven.
- All children must be securely restrained using an adult seatbelt if necessary during transit.
- It’s recommended to bring your own child restraints where possible as most taxes have anchorage points available.
- It’s not a legal requirement to use booster seats or child restraints on children under 16 years old on buses.
Using an Adult Seatbelt on Children
Children aged seven years and older can legally be secured in a vehicle with an adult seatbelt – provided that they are large enough for it to be a safe option. If the child is too small or the seatbelt is being worn incorrectly, you can be handed an infringement notice by an officer of the law.
For this reason, it is recommended to use child restraints on any child aged 12 years or younger. It’s at around this age most children are large enough to safely wear an adult seatbelt, which is designed for use on people of 145 cm and taller.
So, how can you work out if your child is big enough to use an adult seatbelt? If they are able to do all of the following five things, they are ready to move up into the adult safety category.
- Sit comfortably with their back against the seat.
- Cover the top of their thighs with the lap belt.
- Place the sash belt across the mid-shoulder area.
- Bend their knees comfortably, touching the back of the seat in front of them.
- Remain in this position for the duration of the journey.
Are Second-Hand Child Restraints Safe?
Booster seats and child restraints can be expensive when purchased new. This can encourage people to purchase second-hand seats and restraints. For the most part, this is perfectly safe. However, there are some things you should check before going ahead with the purchase.
- Check for any mould, stress marks or cracks. If any three of these things are present, don’t make the purchase.
- Verify it meets AS/NZS 1754 standards.
- Ensure the restraint is under 10 years old by checking the manufacture date.
- Make sure that all accessories are included, including the instruction manual.
- Check that the straps are not damaged, worn or frayed.
- Test the harness buckles and ensure they securely click into place.
- If in doubt, continue looking for a restraint or booster seat in better condition.
Visit https://www.childcarseats.com.au for more useful information on choosing the right car seat for your child.
Choosing a Vehicle Designed for Child Safety
At Booths Motor Group, we understand the importance of child safety. When looking for your next family car, we can help you choose a make and model that accommodates all passengers of all ages and look at how you can comply with all of the required child restraint laws in Australia. Visit us today and enjoy travelling with your family – safe in the knowledge that they are all well-protected.