Child restraints

  • Correct use of child car restraints reduces the risk of death by up to 75%
  • Children are best protected when they are in the correct child car seat for their age and size.

The size of your child, and how they fit a child restraint, is more important than their age. The age recommendations are guidelines only.

See the "more information" section below for a breakdown on the child restraint laws and child safety recommendations in Australia by age.

Common child restraint errors

Some of the common mistakes that parents make when they put their child in a car seat are listed below. Make sure your child is put in their car seat in the right way so they stay protected if you were to have an accident.

You can set a good example for your child by wearing your seatbelt. Everyone must wear a seatbelt in Australia.

Using a seatbelt instead of a harness

  • Some parents move their child too soon into a seatbelt when they should still be using an inbuilt harness
  • Even if you think your child looks uncomfortable

Twisted straps

  • Make sure there are no twists in your child’s car seat harness.

Straps too high

  • Some children have their straps through shoulder slots that are too high for them
  • Make sure your child’s shoulder straps go through the slots that are closest to their shoulders.

Loose straps

  • Make sure your child’s harness is done up so it is firm and not loose
  • If you can pinch the straps, then the harness is too loose.

Bulky clothing

  • Jackets, jumpers and other bulky clothing can create a gap between your child’s body and the straps, making the straps too loose. If the straps are loose, your child will not be safe if an accident was to happen
  • Bulky clothing should always be removed before putting your child in their car seat.

Top tether straps not installed properly

  • Make sure the top tether straps are firm and not loose or twisted
  • Always connect the tether straps to the anchorage point directly behind the seat in your car
  • Anchorage points can be found in the roof, on the floor or on the back of the seat of your car.

Look at your car seat instructions and your car owner’s manual for more information on how to install your child’s car seat. Get professional advice if you are unsure.

Child restraint laws

Age

Age

National Child Restraint LawNational Child Restraint Law

Recommendations

Under 6 monthsRear facing only

 

 

6 months to 4 yearsRear or forward facing car seat with an inbuilt harness

 

It may look like some children who are rear facing don’t have enough room for their legs. However, it is still safest for your child to stay rearward facing for as long as they fit in it.

You can tell if your child is too tall for the restraint if their shoulders are above the maximum shoulder height marker (if marked) or above the top harness strap slot (if not marked).

4 years to 7 yearsForward facing car seat with an inbuilt harness or a booster seat with a lap and sash seatbelt or an inbuilt harness

It is safer to use a forward facing car seat and an inbuilt harness for as long as your child fits in it, before moving to a booster seat or a seatbelt.

Children between the ages of 4 and 7 years can only travel in the front seat of a vehicle with 2 or more rows of seats if all other back seats are being used by children younger than 7 years in an approved child restraint or booster seat.

You can tell if your child is too tall for the forward facing harness restraint if their shoulders are above the maximum shoulder height marker (if marked) or 2.5cm above the top shoulder harness strap slot (if not marked).

 Booster seat with a lap and sash seatbelt or an inbuilt harness

It is safer to use a high back booster seat for as long as possible until your child is too tall for it and can safely use a seltbelt by passing the 5 step test.

Most children will need to use a booster seat until 10-12 years of age.

Booster cushions without a back are no longer made in Australia. They are not recommended as they don’t provide enough protection.

  • Most child restraints have height markers to guide when your child is ready to move to the next restraint. Get professional advice if you are unsure
  • It is safer for children under 12 years of age to travel in the back seat of a vehicle rather than the front seat
  • Don’t use a restraint that is more than 10 years old or one that has been involved in a crash. They may have damage that you cannot see and may not work properly
  • If you are using a second hand restraint, make sure that the straps are not damaged, the plastic shell and buckle are not broken or cracked, you have all the parts and everything is working.

5 step test

Use the 5 step test to decide whether your child is ready to move from a forward facing child restraint to an adult seatbelt. It is important your child can meet all 5 stages so they can’t slide under the seatbelt or get injured from not sitting properly on the seat.

  1. Your child can sit with their lower back against the back of the seat
  2. Their knees can bend over the edge of the seat
  3. The sash part of the seatbelt goes across the middle of the shoulder and not across the neck
  4. The lap belt sits low across the hips and touches the thighs
  5. Your child can stay like this for the whole trip and can sit upright without slouching

Correct fitting

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when you put a restraint in your vehicle
  • If you need help, contact the manufacturer or an Authorised Restraint Fitting Station
  • Some organisations and local councils offer free child restraint checks
  • Having someone show you how to install a car seat is very important so you know how to use the child restraint correctly and move it into other vehicles if needed.

Child car seat testing

The Child Restraint Evaluation Program provides independent information to help you choose safe child car seats. The program tests child car seats and rates their level of protection in a crash. For more information, visit childcarseats.com.au