The Right Restraint For Your Child

Choosing a child restraint


1. Only buy a restraint that meets the Australian Standard.

  • A sticker will show that it meets the 2004, 2010 or 2013 AS/NZS 1754 standard. It is illegal to use overseas models.

2. Check the restraint is suitable for your needs.

  • Remember that the price tag doesn't necessarily reflect how safe a car seat is. Make sure that the restraint is the right size for your child and also fits well in your vehicle.

3. Has the seat got a safety rating?

  • The Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) assesses the protection rating of car seats above what is required by the Australian Standard and also provides information on ease of use. There is information available on some seats that may help you in making a decision about which one to buy.

ISOFIX compatible child seats


The latest version of the Australian Standard for child restraints (AS/NZS 1754:2013) has an option for manufacturers to produce ISOFIX compatible child restraints. ISOFIX is an alternative way to attach a child restraint to a vehicle, without a seatbelt.

ISOFIX compatible child restraints have been introduced as another option for how child restraints can be fitted to cars - not because of any concerns with the safety of the traditional range of child restraints. There is strong evidence that Australian child restraints that use the vehicle seatbelt and top tether strap provide excellent protection to children, even in high severity crashes. 

Child restraints that use the vehicle seatbelt and top tether strap will continue to be available. Australian ISOFIX compatible child restraints are just another option to choose from. ISOFIX compatible child restraints still have the option to allow them to be fitted with a seatbelt. 

There is still potential for incorrect use of ISOFIX compatible child restraints, so it is important to take care when fitting and using child restraints, no matter what the type.

All child restraints sold in Australia must comply with the Australian Standard and display an Australian Standard sticker. It is illegal to use an overseas model or a restraint that doesn't meet these requirements. 

To help choose the safest child restraint, visit the Child Car Seats website. This website contains information from the Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) that independently crash tests child restraints and provides star ratings for crash protection and ease of use. As more ISOFIX compatible child restraints become available, they will be included in the testing.

Read the ISOFIX FAQs on the Child Care Seats website here.

Second-hand child restraints


It is important to be cautious when buying second-hand child restraints. An RACV survey found that one in five second-hand child restraints sold online or in store are not suitable for sale because they were worn out, damaged, too old or even illegal overseas models.

Not only would these restraints be a waste of money, they are potentially dangerous. Even though many second hand restraints were found to be in good condition, you should ask lots of questions before buying. If you don't get the answer you're looking for, look for another child restraint. 

Tips for buying second-hand restraints:

  • Only buy a restraint that meets the Australian Standard. A sticker will show it meets the AS/NZS 1754 standard. It is illegal to use overseas models or restraints meeting the 2000 or older standards.
  • Don't use a restraint that's more than 10 years old. A seperate sticker should show the year of manufacture. Consider how long your child will need the restraint. Newer restraints are likely to be safer.
  • Check that all parts are in good condition. There should be no signs of wear and tear, and the buckle should click into place securely. 
  • Know the history. Damage might not be obvious, so it's important to check if the restraint has been in a crash. A restraint that's been in a crash must be destroyed and should not be for sale. 
  • Check the safety rating. Compare the safety of seats at childcarseats.com.au.
  • Check the restraint is suitable for your needs. Is it the right size? Will it fit in your vehicle?
  • Ask for the instruction manual. The manual will have instructions on fitting the restraint correctly. Some manuals can be downloaded online from the manufacturers. 

Child restraint hire


You can hire restraints, such as capsules, for short term use by contacting your local council or hire service. Always check a hired restraint before you use it:  

  • check for obvious signs of wear on the straps or plastic shell
  • test the buckle and adjusters work properly.

For more information, contact your local council or local restraint hire service.

Children with additional needs


All children need to travel safely and comfortably to and from places such as school, leisure activities or medical appointments. Children with additional needs (e.g. due to a medical condition or behavioural problem) often require special consideration when being transported in cars. For some parents and carers of children with a disability, it can be challenging to find a restraint that meets their child’s special needs. It’s important to find the right restraint to reduce the risk of injury to a child in a crash.

The Transportation of Children with Additional Needs (TOCAN) partnership has created a website resource to help parents ensure their child is legally and safely restrained, and to assist health practitioners assess children and prescribe modified or specialised restraints.

The site also includes information on funding options for parents and contact details for suppliers. In special circumstances, a child restraint that does not comply with the Australian Standard can be used by children with additional needs so they can be transported safely. In this situation, the child will need an exemption from using a restraint meeting the Australian Standard, which can be obtained when a number of conditions are met, such as a medical certificate.

It is important to remember that parents and carers of children with additional needs must consult with a health professional, such as an Occupational Therapist, who will help them choose the most suitable restraint for their child. Health professionals involved in this process use the Australian Standard AS/NZS 4370:2013 (Restraint of Children with Disabilities, or Medical Conditions, in Motor Vehicles) to assist them in assessing and recommending the most suitable option for restraining a child with additional needs in a vehicle.

TOCAN continue to work on transportation issues related to children, adolescents and youth. It is the goal of TOCAN for young people to travel as safely as possible.

For more information about the transportation of children and youth with additional needs, see the TOCAN website.

Accessories


1. What is the difference between an inbuilt harness and a safety harness?

  • An inbuilt harness is part of a child restraints. A child safety harness (H-harness) is sold as a seperate item and is generally not recommended for use. They should only be used with booster seats where a lap only belt is fitted. 

2. Do I need to use a harness with my child's booster seat?

  • You don't need a harness unless a lap-only belt is fitted. Booster seats are designed to be used with a lap/sash seatbelt. Using an external harness is not recommended.

3. What accessories can I use with my restraint or booster?

  • Accessories are not recommended unless they are sold with your restraint or booster. After-market accessories can make it more difficult to remove a child from a car in a crash or even interfere with the performance of the restraint.