Department of State GrowthTransport

Child Restraints - A Guide to Car Seats

You can keep your child safe in the car by always using a correctly fitted and adjusted child restraint. Child restraints are also known as a car seat, booster seat or capsule. There are different types of child restraints to suit a child’s age and size.

This guide has helpful information to select and fit child restraints.

For a copy click here.

This page will help you find the answer to these frequently asked questions about child restraints.

The information given on this page is a guide only. Seatbelt laws applying to passengers under the age of 16 years can be found in Rule 266 of the Road Rules 2019.

Why is it important to use a child restraint such as a car seat or booster for children?

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The most important reason for using a child restraint car seat is to protect your child. An approved and properly fitted car seat may reduce the risk of death or serious injury in road crashes by up to 70%.

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What’s the law for child restraints?

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The law (Road Rules 2019) requires that:

  • Children under 6 months must use a rear facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness.
  • Children aged 6 months up to 4 years must use a rear facing or forward facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness.
  • Children aged 4 years up to 7 years must use a forward facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness, or booster seat with a properly fastened and adjusted seatbelt or safety harness.
  • Children aged 7 years and older must use a properly fastened forward facing car seat or adult seatbelt.
  • The child restraint meets the Australian Standards. This means it will have an AS/NZS 1754 code on the label.

If you don't have your child in a correctly fitted car seat it could cost you demerit points and a fine.

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What is an approved child restraint?

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Child restraints, booster seats or safety harnesses must have the AS/NZS 1754 code to be marked in accordance with the Standard, and have no visible defect.

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What is ISOFIX?

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ISOFIX is a special attachment built into the base of the seat in the car that allows a child restraint to clip into it. ISOFIX restraints must be used together with a top-tether strap connected to an anchor point to hold them tightly in place.

It is illegal to use an ISOFIX restraint that does not meet the Australian Standards.  A child restraint that meets Australian Standards will have the AS/NZS 1754 code on the label.

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What if a child is too big or too small for the recommended restraint?

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There may be times when a child is too heavy or tall for the restraint recommended for their age. In these cases, a child should use the restraint for children in the next age group. If a child is too small to move into the next type of child restraint for their age they should stay in their current child restraint.

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Are second-hand child restraints safe?

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Second-hand child restraints can be used if they are in good condition. A child restraint is in good condition if:

  • It has not been in a crash
  • There are no obvious signs of wear and tear
  • The harness straps are not stretched, torn or fraying
  • It is not sun damaged
  • Has the AS/NZS 1754 code

Do not use a child restraint that is more than 10 years old. You can find the age of a child restraint by checking its date of manufacture that will be displayed on the restraint labelling or imprinted into the shell.

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What if a child restraint has been in a crash?

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You must replace any restraints that have been in a crash where someone was injured or the vehicle was written off.

The restraint should be destroyed and not resold or given away.

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Can I use a child restraint from overseas?

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The Road Rules require child restraints, booster seats or safety harnesses to comply with the Australian Standard. This means the child restraint needs to have AS/NZS 1754 code on the label.

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What if a child is unable to use the restraint for medical reasons?

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Children with a medical condition or physical disability can receive a permit to use a specialised restraint that does not meet the Australian Standard. Parents and carers should seek advice from a health professional, such as an occupational therapist, who can recommend the appropriate restraint or seat which is best for the child.

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How do I install and fit a child restraint correctly?

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To keep your child safe the car seat must be properly installed in your car. If it is not properly installed it could come loose or move and your child could be injured in a crash.

You can install a car seat yourself.

The car seat should come with instructions (manufacturer's instructions) on how to install it. You should follow the instructions step by step. Most car seats need to be connected to an anchor point to hold them in place.

Check the car seat properly fits your child every time you buckle them up. The child should fit comfortably in the car seat. Tighten straps and harness so they are above the shoulder, but not above the ear. Make sure there are no twists in the straps. If you can pinch the strap, then it is too loose.

If the straps are too loose the child will move around and could even come out of the car seat if you stop suddenly or are in a crash. Make sure all buckles are securely fastened.

If you cannot find an anchor point check your vehicle's owner manual. If you do not have an anchor point you must get one made and fitted by a professional.

If you want help to install a car seat an accredited car seat fitter can help. Kidsafe can advise on available services.

Telephone: 0417 381 721
Website: www.kidsafetas.com.au

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Can a child travel without a booster seat when they reach 7 years old?

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Most children do not fit into a seat belt properly until they are around 12 years old.

The '5 Step Test' to check if your child is ready to move from a booster to a seat belt

  • Can your child sit all the way back against the seat? YES or NO
  • Do your child's knees bend comfortably in front of the edge of the seat? YES or NO
  • Does the sash (shoulder) belt sit across the middle of the shoulder not on the neck or the arm? YES or NO
  • Is the lap belt sitting low across the hip bones touching the thighs? YES or NO
  • Can your child stay seated like this for the whole trip? YES or NO

YES = 5: YES Seat Belt

NO = 1 or more: NO Booster Seat

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When can a child sit in the front seat?

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Children aged 7 years and over can travel in the front seat. However, research shows that children under 12 years are much safer travelling in the back seat. Most children do not fit into a seat belt properly until they are around 12 years old.

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Can a child under the age of 7 years old travel in the front seat of a van or utility?

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A child that is over 4 years old can sit in the front seat if the back seat is full of other younger children. But the child must be in an approved car seat or booster seat that has been properly fitted.

Children under 7 years old can sit in the front seat if the car does not have a back seat. However the child must be in an approved car seat that has been properly fitted and secured.

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Can I fit 3 child restraints across the back of my vehicle?

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Fitting 3 restraints in the back seat of your vehicle will depend on the size of your vehicle, the combination of restraints you are using (e.g. 1 rear facing restraint, 1 forward facing restraint, 1 booster seat), and the make and model of those restraints.

If all your restraints have top tether straps, you will also need to make sure that your vehicle has 3 anchorage points. Make sure you do not use a luggage tie-down point instead of an anchorage point.

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Do children need a child restraint in a taxi?

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Taxis and buses are exempt from supplying car seats, therefore children are not required to be seated in a car seat when travelling by taxi or bus. However all passengers including children must wear seatbelts if they are fitted.

Children under 12 months old are allowed to sit on the lap of an adult passenger in the back seats of a taxi. Never let children share a seat belt with another passenger because it is dangerous.

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Do children need to use a child restraint in a ride-source service such as Uber?

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It is the law that all children travelling in a motor vehicle who are under 7 years of age, be restrained in a suitable restraint that is properly adjusted and fastened. A ride-source vehicle is just like any other private car and requires child restraints to be installed to transport children under 7. The driver of a ride-sourcing service, such as Uber, does not have an exemption from the child restraint laws and so must comply with all of the requirements for children up to 16 years of age.

Some ride-sourcing services may provide a car seat for a surcharge and others do not, so be sure to check with the company before booking.  If you do not notify the company that a child will be travelling with you then they may refuse service on pick up if you do not supply a child restraint yourself.

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Do children need child restraints on buses?

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Taxis and buses are exempt from supplying car seats, therefore children are not required to be seated in a car seat when travelling by taxi or bus. However all passengers including children must wear seatbelts if they are fitted.

Children under 12 months old are allowed to sit on the lap of an adult passenger on a bus or back seat of a taxi. Never let children share a seat belt with another passenger because it is dangerous.

It is recommended that child restraints and booster seats are used in buses where possible and, as a minimum, children should use the seat belts provided.

However, it is important to note that many existing buses were not designed to be equipped with seatbelts or child restraint fixing points.  Research into school bus safety suggests that the installation of seatbelts in buses that are not designed for their fitment can have negative safety implications by increasing the severity of some injuries in a crash.

Note - any vehicle with a seating capacity of less than 12 people (including the driver) is not considered a bus, and the child restraint seatbelt rules apply.

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Who can I contact if I have another question?

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For more information on child restraints contact:

Department of State GrowthTelephone: 1300 135 513

Kidsafe
Telephone: 0417 381 721
Website: www.kidsafetas.com.au

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