Child safety and the road rules
New child restraint road rules, nationally agreed by all Australian states and territories, are gradually being implemented around Australia. In summary, the new rules state the following:
- Children under six months are to be seated in a properly fastened and adjusted approved rearward-facing child restraint.
- Children aged between six months and four years are to be seated in a properly fastened and adjusted rearward-facing or forward-facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness.
- Children aged four years to under seven years are to be seated in a properly fastened and adjusted forward-facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness, or an approved booster seat with a properly fastened and adjusted seatbelt or child safety harness.
Research shows that up to three-quarters of parents and carers misuse or use the wrong restraint for their child.
Always wait until your child has outgrown her current seat or restraint before changing to the next size.
A child who’s too heavy for the restraint recommended for her age should use a restraint for the next age category.
|Baby capsule/car seat
|Rear-facing child restraint (inbuilt harness)
||Products are available for children up to 9 kg or 12 kg
|Approved child restraint (inbuilt harness)
||Suitable for children up to a maximum weight of 18 kg
|Approved booster seat (additional child safety harness optional)
||Suitable for children up to a maximum weight of 26 kg
Approved child restraints, booster seats and child safety harnesses must meet the requirements of the Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS) 1754. This should be clear on the packaging and the restraint. In some jurisdictions, it’s illegal to use a restraint made before 1991. You’ll need to check what the rules are in your state or territory.
Second-hand child restraints and booster seats
If you have the chance of using a second-hand restraint, make sure you check:
- its age and condition
- its history
- that it’s approved
- that it isn’t more than 10 years old
- that all the parts, including the instruction booklet, are included.
To make sure your child will be kept as safe as possible, don’t accept or use a restraint that has:
- been in a crash, even if there’s no obvious damage
- splits, cracks or large stress marks in the restraint shell
- straps that are frayed, worn or damaged
- a buckle that doesn’t work smoothly.
Differences between an in-built harness and a child safety harness
An inbuilt harness is made as part of the child restraint. It’s suitable for children up to 18 kg. There are no inbuilt harnesses available for children over 18 kg.
A child safety harness is purchased separately from the restraint. It’s suitable for children who weigh 18-32 kg.
Children with additional needs
Children with additional needs present many challenges for safe car travel. Allied health clinicians, such as occupational therapists, can work with your family to identify suitable strategies. These can include modifying a restraint, recommending a restraint accessory or prescribing a specialised restraint.