Car seat confusion
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. When fitted and used correctly, restraints are very effective in protecting children in the event of a crash.
The law specifies which type of car seats your child should be in at each stage of their growth. However, it is important to remember child restraints are based on the child’s age for ease of enforcement. The child’s seated height should also be considered when determining the suitability of various car restraints.
The law specifies that:
- Babies aged up to six months – a rear-facing car seat or baby capsule
- Children aged six months to four years – a rear-facing or forward-facing car seat with in-built harness.
- Children four to seven years – Car seat with in-built harness or booster seat used with properly fastened and adjusted adult seatbelt.
The law is also very specific about when a child should be able to sit in the front seat of a car.
- If a car has two or more rows of seats, then children under 4 years must not travel in the front seat.
- If a car has two or more rows of seats, then children aged between 4 years and under 7 years must not travel in the front seat UNLESS all other seats are being used by children under 7 years. In this situation, a child may travel in the front seat using an approved booster seat with a properly fastened and adjusted seatbelt.
- If a car only has one row of seats (eg. a utility or van) then a child can be seated in the passenger seat as long as they are in an appropriate child restraint. A child restraint anchorage point must be available to secure a child car seat for a child under 4 years and a rear-facing seat should never be installed if there’s an airbag in that position.
There are many convertible car seats on the market – you can buy a rear-facing car seat that turns around to become forward-facing (to suit newborns to age 4+) as well as seats that convert into boosters (to suit ages 6 months – 8 years +).
When choosing the appropriate child restraint, be sure to check the safety ratings provided here.