the law and standards on child restraints
In Victoria, children under seven years of age must use a child restraint or booster seat when travelling in a car.
The rules require that:
- Children aged under 6 months must use an approved, properly fastened and adjusted rearward facing restraint.
- Children aged between 6 months and under 4 years must use an approved, properly fastened and adjusted rearward facing child restraint OR a forward facing restraint.
- Children aged between 4 years and under 7 years must use an approved, properly fastened and adjusted forward facing restraint OR an approved booster seat which is properly positioned and fastened.
There are also new laws for where children can sit in vehicles:
- If a car has two or more rows of seats, than children under 4 years must not travel in the front seat.
- If all seats, other than the front seats, are being used by children under 7 years, children aged between four and six years (inclusive) may travel in the front seat, provided they use an approved restraint or booster that is properly fitted.
It is the driver's responsibility to ensure that passengers are properly restrained in a seat belt or approved child restraint. There are penalties for drivers who do not ensure that their passengers are properly restrained. For more information on the rules and penalties related to seatbelts click here.
Exemptions to child restraint legislation apply if:
- a child under one is travelling in a taxi and a suitable restraint is not available, however the child must not travel in the front seat
- a child over one is travelling in a taxi, and there is no suitable restraint available and the child occupies their own seating position.
- a child is travelling in a police or emergency vehicle
- a child has a medical condition or physical disability that makes it impractical to use a child restraint, and the driver has a certificate from a doctor indicating this is the case.
Approved child restraints and booster seats meet the requirements of the Australian/ New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS) 1754. This should be clear on the packaging and the restraint. An example of an Australian Standards approved sticker is shown.
Latest version of the child restraint standard
The AS/NZS 1754 standard has been updated over time as laws and the technology of child restraints change. The latest version of the standard was released in 2010 and some restraints that meet this standard are now available for consumers to purchase.
The new features include:
- booster seats that are suitable for children from approximately 4 years to approximately 6 to 8 years of age (available now)
- an approximate age and shoulder height marking to guide selection of restraint (no longer weight based)
- colour coded seatbelt paths to make installing in a motor vehicle easier
- the introduction of a new type of booster seat for children from approximately 4 years to approximately 8 to 10 years of age (available in the future).
The VicRoads website has more information and lists the approved child restraints and approved booster seats available to purchase.
Frequently asked questions
What can I do if my child is too big for the restraint for their age?
The laws aim to cater for the majority of children, however there is a provision to allow a child who is too heavy or tall for the recommended restraint to use the restraint in the next age category.
If my child is in a booster seat do they also need to be in a child safety harness?
Booster seats do not come with an internal child safety harness, and are designed to be used with a lap/sash seatbelt and therefore do not require a child safety harness. However, if your child is using a seating position fitted with a lap-only belt then they must use a child safety harness.
If I can't fit my three children in three restraints in the back, is it OK if one sits in the front?
Yes, under the following circumstances. If there are two child restraints or booster seats in the rear and there is not enough space to put a third restraint or booster in the rear seat then a passenger aged between four and less than seven years old can be in a booster seat in the front seat. You will need to use a booster seat that does not need to be anchored.
Can I still use the additional seat (dickie seat) that I have in the back of my station wagon?
Yes. Dickie seats will be permitted for use by children aged four years and less than seven years provided the seat is suitable for the child's height and weight and a lap/sash seatbelt or seatbelt with a child safety harness is used.
There are other changes to the road rules that came into effect on 9 November 2009. For more information click here.