Child restraints in motor vehicles

We often deal with issues involving children’s car seats. Not so much with infringements and the ensuing fines and demerit points, but more often as a contentious issue in an adversarial parenting matter.

It is important to comply with national child restraint laws. Primarily, for the safety of the child. Secondarily, and for people involved in parenting disputes, to reduce areas of agitation.

It is not unusual that during a parenting ‘changeover’ – where one parent delivers the child(ren) to the other parent – parents become combative and disagreements metastasise. Time with one parent may be suspended if they can’t safely and legally transport the child.

It is important to know what the restraint requirements are and to ensure you are following them. Transport for New South Wales catalogues the national child restraint laws as follows:

  • children up to the age of six months must be secured in an approved rearward facing restraint;
  • children aged from six months old but under four years old must be secured in either a rear or forward facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness;
  • children under four years old cannot travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows;
  • children aged from four years old but under seven years old must be secured in a forward facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness or an approved booster seat;
  • children aged from four years old but under seven years old cannot travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows, unless all other back seats are occupied by children younger than seven years in an approved child restraint or booster seat;
  • children aged from seven years old but under 16 years old who are too small to be restrained by a seatbelt properly adjusted and fastened are strongly recommended to use an approved booster seat; and
  • children in booster seats must be restrained by a suitable lap and sash type approved seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened, or by a suitable approved child safety harness that is properly adjusted and fastened.

The above is subject to change pursuant to the child’s size but is a good gauge.

Complying with the national child restraint laws promotes the child’s safety and, even if it doesn’t wholly extinguish an area of dispute, it ensures that you’re not the one at fault.

The above is not intended as legal advice. You should obtain legal advice in relation to your own specific circumstances.

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