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Child Passenger Safety

At a glance: To help protect children while they're riding in your car, follow these car seat and seat belt safety guidelines. In general, kids should ride in the back seat until they're 13 years old, and they should use a car safety seat or booster if they're less than 7 years or weigh less than 27 kgs. Following these guidelines helps prevent injuries during a car crash.

Child Safety Seat Tips

Until they're tall enough to wear a properly positioned adult seat belt, kids will need to use a car safety seat or child restraint. According to a US study, when they’re correctly installed, the correct child restraint reduces fatal injuries in a car crash by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Children need different restraints as they grow. The restraint must be the right size for the child, properly adjusted and fastened, and correctly fitted to the vehicle. Develop habits that ensure your child has been fully secured within the child restraint, and that the straps are straight (without twists). Twisted straps can result in more severe damage to a child in a car accident.

Child Restraint Laws

Ministers of the Australian Transport Council agreed in 2008 to support new national child restraint laws, which provide a safe pathway from capsules to seat belts.

Following this decision by the Australian Transport Council, Transport Ministers from around Australia agreed to amend the Australian Road Rules to introduce a mandatory size-appropriate restraint system for all children travelling in motor vehicles.

In response to calls from road safety experts and the community for tougher minimum standards, children up to 6 months old must be restrained in a rearward facing infant capsule; then a forward facing child seat until the age of 4; and a booster seat from 4 to 7 years old. The new road rules will reduce the risk of injury caused by seat restraints which are unsuitable for the child's weight and height.

The reform package also recognises the increased safety protection offered by rear car seats. A child under 7 years old must be seated at the back, unless all the rear seat positions are occupied by other young children (under 7 years old).

According to the Australian Transport Council, approximately 500 children up to the age of 10 are killed or seriously injured every year in car accidents, with 2,300 sustaining minor injuries.

Guide to selecting a child restraint

The following table is a guide to selecting a suitable child restraint.


Indicative Weight

Child Restraint

0 to 6 months

less than 8 kilograms (kgs)

Rearward facing baby capsule or infant restraint

6 months to 1 year

8 to 12 kgs

Rearward or forward facing infant restraint

6 months to 4 years

8 to 18 kgs

Forward facing child restraint with built-in harness

4 years to 7 years

14 to 26 kgs

Booster seat with H-harness or a booster seat with a secured adult seatbelt

Selecting the appropriate restraint is only the first step in protecting your child. No restraint will work properly or prevent injury if it has not been fitted correctly in accordance with the manufacturer's directions.

When choosing a child restraint, the child's age is the primary factor in determining the correct restraint to use for your child. The size and weight of your child may however, have an impact on what type of child restraint is appropriate.

If a child is too tall or heavy for the restraint specified for their age they should use the restraint specified for the next age group. If a child is also too small to move into the restraint approved for their age they should remain in the restraint specified for the previous age group.

The responsibility for children under 16 years using restraints correctly rests with the driver.

Exceptions to wearing seatbelts

Seatbelts do not have to be worn by people if their doctor has written a letter stating that the person doesn't have to wear a seatbelt on the ground of physical disability or any medical ground. The person must have the letter with her or him, or a seatbelt must be worn.


The penalty for failing to ensure a child aged can be an on the spot fine and 3 demerit points.

See specific regulations by state.

New South Wales




Western Australia




South Australia