Confusion on Victorian booster seat laws

Moving Well | Jade Thrupp | Posted on 29 January 2019

Many Victorian parents don’t know at what age their child can travel safely without a booster seat.

Confusion about child-restraint laws could be putting thousands of Victorian children at risk on our roads, with height – not age – the safest measure of readiness for an adult seatbelt.

While most parents know that by law children aged under seven must use a booster seat, RACV manager of safety and education Elvira Lazar says best-practice guidelines state that from age seven to 16 they must be “suitably restrained” in a booster seat or adult seatbelt. 

two boys standing next to a 145cm height chart

“Suitability is determined not by age but by height,” says Elvira.

“Best-practice guidelines recommend that children should travel in booster seats until they are 145 centimetres tall, or about 12 years old. Given that less than two per cent of seven-year-olds are that height, parents need to reassess whether they are ready to move out of a booster seat.” 

Moving children out of a booster seat too soon puts them at greater risk of head, neck, spinal and abdominal injuries in a crash, says Elvira.

If they don’t fit correctly in an adult seatbelt, they’ll need to stay in a booster seat.

“Children who move from a booster seat to an adult seatbelt too early are 3.5 times more likely to suffer serious injury in an accident, so it’s important to ensure your child is properly restrained and using the right restraint for their height, regardless of their age.”

Elvira says a simple five-step test is the best way to determine if your child is ready to use an adult seatbelt. “If they don’t fit correctly in an adult seatbelt, they’ll need to stay in a booster seat.”

Five-step test – Is your child ready to use a seatbelt? 

  1. Does the child sit all the way back against the seat of the car? 
  2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat? 
  3. Does the belt cross the shoulder properly between the child’s neck and arm? 
  4. Is the lap belt as low as possible and touching the child’s thighs? 
  5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?