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Changes to child restraint laws

Every parent wants to know that they are using the correct child restraint for their kids when they're in the car. New child restraint laws were introduced around Australia in 2010, making child restraints mandatory for kids under seven years. They were designed to improve car safety for little people and assist in helping to keep your child safer in the event of a car accident.

Why were the laws introduced?

Research has found that Australian kids were being moved into bigger seats and graduating to normal seatbelts before they're big enough to do so. Adult seatbelts shouldn't be used on children under seven years because they don't fit properly over a small child's lap and shoulder, and exposes the abdomen and neck to serious injury in the event of a crash. A child travelling in a car with a proper child restraint is less likely to be injured or killed in a car crash than one who isn't. Nothing else offers the same level of crash protection for your baby and child than a properly fitted child restraint - it's one investment that you can't afford not to make.

What do the laws mean?

The laws require children to be in an approved child restraint from birth up to seven years and determine:

  • children aged less than six months must use an approved rearward facing restraint such as a baby capsule.
  • children aged between six months and under four years must use an approved rearward facing child restraint or a forward facing restraint.
  • children aged between four years and under seven years must use an approved forward facing restraint OR an approved booster seat which is properly positioned and fastened.

There are also laws for where children can sit in vehicles:

  • If a car has two or more rows of seats, children under four years must not travel in the front seat.
  • Children aged between four and seven years will not be permitted to sit in the front seat unless all other seating positions are already occupied by children under seven years.

When did the new laws come into effect?

New national child restraint laws were introduced in 2010. A transitional period was in place until 30 June 2010 to give parents and carers time to fully understand and comply with the new laws. However, all children up to seven years of age must now be safely fastened into the right restraint for their age and size.

What are the penalties?

Just like seatbelt laws, drivers are fined and incur demerit points if passengers under seven years are not wearing an approved child restraint.

What is an approved child restraint?

Approved child restraints and booster seats are those that meet the requirements of the Australian /New Zealand Standard 1754:2004. When buying a restraint or booster, make sure the packaging displays the Australian standard sticker.

What if my child is too big or small for the restraint for their age?

The laws aim to cater for the majority of children, however if your child is too heavy or tall for the recommended restraint for their age, they can be moved to the restraint in the next age category. Likewise, if your child is too small for their age-restraint it's recommended that you keep them in the lower level restraint until they are big enough for the next level.

If my child is in a booster seat do they also need to be in a child safety harness?

Booster seats do not come with a child safety harness. Booster seats are designed to be used with a lap/sash seatbelt. However, if your child is using a seating position fitted with a lap-only seatbelt then they must use a child safety harness.

What is the difference between an in-built harness and a child safety harness?

An in-built harness is part of the child restraint. It is suitable for children up to 18kg. There are no in-built harnesses available for children over 18kg. A child safety harness is purchased separately. It is suitable for children that are between 18kg and 32kg.


  • Using a restraint correctly greatly increases your child's safety during a crash.
  • Placing your child in a restraint that is designed for a larger/older child increases the risk of serious injury in a crash.
  • It is illegal in some states to use a child restraint in the front passenger seat of a vehicle if a passenger airbag is fitted.
  • Ensure the restraint is installed correctly. See a restraint fitter if in any doubt.
  • Always use the top tether strap where required.
  • Teach by example and always wear your seatbelt.
  • When using a seatbelt with a booster, ensure the seatbelt is correctly fitted over the child's shoulder.
  • Move your child into a forward-facing restraint only when they no longer fit into a rearward-facing restraint.
  • Move your child into a booster seat only when they no longer fit into a forward-facing restraint.
  • Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions.

Find more information on car seats:

This article was written by Lana Verco for Kidspot. Sources include RACV, the NSW Roads and Maritime Services, Office of Road Safety and the South Australian Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure.





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Holden Dynamics Pty Ltd, Sydney NSW Australia.
Phone (02) 8011 4688
PO Box 1  The Oaks NSW 2570 . All Rights Reserved.

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