By law, children must be restrained appropriately at all times when travelling in a car in Australia.
Make sure you choose the right restraint for your child and your vehicle.
Restraints need to be fitted and used correctly.
Travelling with children can be challenging, but there are things you can do to make the journey easier and safer.
Only move children to the next category of restraint once they are too big for their current restraint.
The best way to prevent injuries to children in a crash is by taking care to correctly restrain them while travelling in a car. By law, all passengers must be restrained appropriately at all times when travelling in a car in Australia. Children should be restrained using the right child restraint for their age and size.
All child restraints must comply with the Australian Standard for child restraints (AS/NZS 1754). When fitted and used correctly, restraints are very effective in protecting children in the event of a crash.
Leaving a child on their own, locked in a car on any day – even for a short period – can be fatal. The temperature inside a car can very quickly climb to dangerous levels.
Children are more at risk from heat-related problems than adults because they can lose fluid very quickly and become dehydrated, leading to heat stroke and potentially death.
Ambulance Victoria data shows that in the period between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2018, Ambulance Victoria responded to 1,587 callouts for people locked in cars across Victoria, the majority being cases involving toddlers and babies.
In all states and territories in Australia, it is illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle for any length of time. In Victoria, it is illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. The penalty for doing so is a fine of $4,030 or up to six months in jail, or both.
Children under seven years must use a child car seat that’s the right size, correctly installed and adjusted to fit.
Keep children in child car seats until they’ve outgrown the size limit, regardless of age.
Children aren’t ready to use adult seatbelts until they can pass the five-step test or are 145 cm tall.
Child car seats: what you need to know
To travel in your car, your child needs either a rear-facing child car seat, forward-facing child car seat, booster seat or adult seatbelt.
The child car seat must:
be appropriate for your child’s size
be correctly installed in your car
be properly fastened and adjusted to fit your child
meet Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1754.
Child car seats in Australia: the law
The minimum legal requirements for using child car seats in Australia are based on age:
Children under six months must use a rear-facing child car seat with an inbuilt harness.
Children aged six months up to four years must use a rear-facing or forward-facing child car seat with an inbuilt harness.
Children aged four years up to seven years must use a forward-facing child car seat with an inbuilt harness or a booster seat with an adult lap-sash seatbelt or child safety harness.
Children aged seven years and older must use a booster seat with an adult lap-sash seatbelt or child safety harness, or a standard seat with an adult seatbelt.
It’s always safest to keep your child in the car seat that’s most appropriate for your child’s size, regardless of age. Therefore, the law also allows for the following:
Children who are too small for the car seat that’s specified for their age group can stay in their current seat until they grow into the seat for the next age group.
Children who are too big for the child car seat that’s specified for their age can move to the seat specified for the next age group.
The shoulder height markers on car seats show when your child is big enough to start using a particular car seat, when you can convert the seat to the next use, and when your child is too big for the seat. If you want advice about moving your child into a different car seat, it’s a good idea to ask your child and family health nurse or another professional.
Moving to an adult seatbelt: the law
By law, children aged seven years and older can use adult seatbelts, but only if they’re big enough. If a police officer thinks that a child aged over seven years isn’t wearing an adult seatbelt correctly, the officer can give you an infringement notice.
It’s important to know that most 7-year-olds are too small for an adult seatbelt. Many children aren’t big enough to safely wear an adult seatbelt until they’re 10-12 years old. This is because adult seatbelts are designed for people who are at least 145 cm tall.
The five-step test can help you decide whether your child is big enough to move to an adult seatbelt. Children are big enough to use adult seatbelts if they can do the following:
Sit with their backs firmly against the seat back.
Bend their knees comfortably over the front of the seat cushion.
Sit with the sash belt across their mid-shoulder.
Sit with the lap belt across the top of their thighs.
Stay in this position for the whole car trip.
Safety standards for child car seats: the law
By law, all child car seats used, bought or sold in Australia must meet Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1754. The Standards label should be on the packaging of new child car seats and on the car seat itself.
If you’re buying accessories for your child car seat – like seatbelt modifiers, covers, inserts or padding – always look for those with Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 8005.
It’s important that you use only accessories that come with the child car seat, or accessories approved for use with that particular car seat.
Child restraints must comply with the Australian/New Zealand Standard 1754 and must be marked accordingly. This Standard is one of the toughest in the world, so child restraints manufactured to this Standard offer good protection in a crash. Restraints bought in other countries will not meet the Australian Standard and it is illegal to use them in Australia.
In 2010, weight guidelines were replaced with shoulder height markers on restraints. These shoulder height markers determine when a child can start using a restraint, or when a restraint needs to be converted to a different mode and when a child may stop using the restraint and move to the next type.
ISOFIX compatible restraints may be used, providing they are Australian Standards approved. The Australian Design Rules for vehicles provide an option for ISOFIX low anchorages in the vehicle with a corresponding top tether anchorage point. A pair of ISOFIX compatible lower attachment connectors for rearward and forward facing child restraints is provided as an option in the Australian/New Zealand Standard for child restraints (AS/NZS 1754:2013) in addition to the top tether strap. Seats made with the new system will also have the current seatbelt system so they can still be used when ISOFIX is not available in the car. It is illegal to use an ISOFIX compatible restraint from overseas.
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.
Source 2: https://raisingchildren.net.au/preschoolers/safety/car-pedestrian-safety/child-car-seats-restraints
Source 3: https://mylicence.sa.gov.au/road-rules/seatbelts-and-child-restraints
Source 4: https://www.booths.com.au/blog/child-restraint-car-seat-laws-australia/