Securing yourself, children and loads

Securing yourself and children

Wearing a seat belt can save your life. But despite Victoria having very high compliance with seat belt wearing, it’s sobering to observe that around one in five vehicle occupants killed on Victoria’s roads each year are not wearing seat belts.

The road rules applying to seat belt use are there for a good reason, and are arguably the simplest rules to comply with - it only takes a click to avoid a penalty and three demerit points.

Drivers

A driver must wear a seat belt properly adjusted and fastened whether the vehicle is moving, or stationary, if the seating position is fitted with a seat belt (which all passenger vehicles since 1971 should have).  Drivers do not have to wear seat belts when the vehicle is parked or reversing – but wearing a seat belt when reversing is safer.

It is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that all passengers, including children and adults, are wearing a child restraint or a seatbelt. The driver can be booked for failing to do so. This rule does not apply to the driver of a bus, or a taxi with passengers 16 years old or older.

Passengers

The rules require all passengers in a motor vehicle to be restrained in a seating position, and not sharing the seat with anyone else. This means that once all seating positions fitted with seatbelts are occupied, no additional passengers may be carried in the vehicle. For example a car with five seats and five seatbelts must only have a maximum of five people travelling in it.

‘Vintage’ cars do not have an exemption from the new child restraint rules for children under seven or the rules that prohibit children less than seven years sitting in the front seat (see child restraints). Only passengers seven years or older will continue to be exempt from wearing a seatbelt in a seating position that is not required to have a seatbelt fitted in a vintage vehicle.

Any person travelling in a car with a child under the age of seven years must ensure the child is in an approved, properly fitted and appropriate child restraint. This may require anchorage points or seatbelts to be installed, or if this is not possible require the child to travel in another vehicle.

Pregnant women are required to wear seatbelts, because in the event of a crash, it is much safer for mother and baby.  Ensure the lap part of the belt is below the bulge, securely fitted over the upper thighs.

Exemptions

The driver of a taxi is exempt from the above requirement for passengers under one year of age only if there is no suitable child restraint available and the child is not in the front seats. RACV believes that children should always be restrained, but unfortunately  most taxi companies in Victoria do not have child restraints fitted in the vehicle, nor do they have restraints available for customers to hire or use. However, taxis are required by law to have anchorage points in the vehicle so that customers can use their own restraint. Parents/carers should take along a suitable restraint to use in a taxi to ensure maximum protection for the child.

Some other limited exemptions to seat belt use also exist, but these are restricted to people engaged in door-to-door services such as garbage collection and people with medical disabilities.

Securing a load

Whether you are moving house with a trailer, taking a load of rubbish to the local tip in the back of a ute, or a commercial vehicle carrying heavy loads, you are required to secure your load appropriately.

Lost loads are an unnecessary risk to driver safety. They can lead to long delays for motorists when lanes may be blocked or even roads closed.

Under Victoria’s Road Rules it is an offence not to have a load secured properly. But what does this mean?

A load is secured properly if it is secured in a way that will prevent any part of the load from:

  • hanging or projecting from the vehicle in a manner that may cause injury or damage to a person or property, or cause hazard to other road users, or
  • becoming dislodged or falling from the vehicle.

A load is also required to be secured in a way that does not make the vehicle unstable or unsafe. 

If part of a load falls onto the road, the driver must remove the item, or take action to have the item removed from the road as soon as can be done so safely.

  • If you are on CityLink and spot any debris, call 13 26 29.
  • On other roads across the state call VicRoads on 13 11 70 (24 hours a day).

Whether your load is a boat, bedroom furniture or autumn prunings - it is important to make sure the vehicle is legally allowed to carry the weight and is maintained in good mechanical condition. Check the manufacturers handbook for weight specifications. When driving, remember your vehicle is less manoeuvrable and will take longer to stop.

Related information

·         Find out more practical tips to safely secure your load.

·         Find out more tips about towing safely