Car Safety

Car Seat Safety – New Study Reveals Most Parents Don’t Know the Rules For Booster Seats!


New findings suggest the majority of parents are unaware of the height guidelines associated with using a booster seat.

The current car seat safety law states children should be in a booster-style seat up until the age of seven. But what if your seven-year-old is a lightweight or not quite as tall as other seven-year-olds?

car seat safety

We’re not alone in the confusion

According to the study by the Royal Children’s Hospital, most parents have no idea that there is a height guideline for when it’s safe for kids to travel in a standard seat.

While, by law, children aged over seven don’t have to be in a booster seat when travelling in the car, adult seatbelts are designed to safely restrain a person of at least 145 cm in height. This means that unless your child is 145 cms or above at seven years of age, they should still be using a booster seat to ensure optimum safety.

Booster seats protect those children who are less than 145 cm tall, by lifting them up so that the seatbelt fits better across their shoulder, chest and hips.

No test required, you can SEE if your child is too small for a standard seat

You can easily see if a child is too small for a standard (adult) seat in a vehicle. The seatbelt cuts high across the neck instead of the shoulder and when your child’s back is flat against the seat, their knees should bend at the edge of the seat. If your child IS too small (no matter their age), back to the booster-seat, buddy.

The Royal Children’s Hospital poll reveals:

  • Two-thirds of children (63%) aged seven to 10 years travel in an adult seatbelt without a booster seat, even though the majority of these children are below the recommended height to safely use an adult seatbelt.
  • Most parents (71%) indicated they did not know how tall a child should be to safely use an adult seatbelt and among the 29% who reported knowing, only 11% got it right – meaning fewer than 3% of parents know that children should be at least 145 cm tall to safely travel in an adult seatbelt without a booster seat.
  • The risk of injury for seven to twelve-year-olds doubles when they sit up front.
  • Only one in 10 (11%) children were 10 years or older when first travelling in the family car without a booster seat.

The information gathered from the poll suggests the vast majority of parents are transitioning their children out of the booster seat much earlier than recommended.

Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll Director Dr Anthea Rhodes says, “Children aged seven to 12 years old are being left vulnerable to life-threatening injuries from car crashes due to inadequate use of car restraints and travelling in the front seat of the car.”

Extending booster seat use by older children until they reach a height of at least 145cm may be a way of reducing child death and disability from road traffic crashes.

If there’s any uncertainty, simply remember that children aged up to 12 years are safest travelling in the back seat of the car.

Not just older kids, babies are at risk too

Don’t be so quick to turn your baby seat around either. Infants should remain rearward facing for two years to ensure they’re in the safest position possible in a moving vehicle.

baby in car seat

While older kids might be miffed at the prospect of remaining in a booster seat, it gives them a growth goal! Mark 145cm on a wall or height chart so that children can see themselves they’re not tall enough to graduate seats.

Could you be making a common car seat mistake? We all want what is best for our children and if extending the time spent in a booster seat saves them from potentially being seriously hurt in an accident, then so be it. Buckle up!

Avatar of Lexi Klaebe

South Australian mum and self proclaimed foodie, Lexi can most days be found in the kitchen, apron tied firm and armed with a whisk or wooden spoon!


  1. Avatar of Blossom

    Some drivers who are quite short in height and very slim would be in booster seats if that is the case.
    By law in Victoria a child has to be a certain age to be allowed to sit in the front seat of a vehicle.
    If that hasn’t been changed to national rule it should be

  2. Avatar of Belinda

    Whilst I agree many parents are confused by the law and best practices, the law does require the use of a child restraint if the child is not able to wear the adult seatbelt correctly. I agree that the law is subjective and could be clearer but it does exist and a police officer is within his right to provide an expiation for the offence if he feels that the child is too small and not wearing the seatbelt correctly.
    Part 16, Rule 266 (4) clearly states:
    (4) If the passenger is 7 years old or older but under 16 years old—
    (a) he or she must be restrained in a suitable approved child restraint that is
    properly adjusted and fastened; or
    (b) he or she—
    (i) must occupy a seating position that is fitted with a suitable approved
    seatbelt; and
    (ii) must not occupy the same seating position as another passenger
    (whether or not the other passenger is exempt from wearing a
    seatbelt under rule 267); and
    (iii) must wear the seatbelt properly adjusted and fastened.

  3. Avatar of Kessie

    Hello, my son is taller than average. Do I still wait until he is 7? The current booster seat has a limit and his shoulder has already reached it. He’s 5.5 years old. Just looking for the law on this, thanks.

  4. Avatar of Jacinta

    I think the issue is also that most car seats are designed for children up to 8 years old there are very few on the market large enough to cater for a child over 10. My 10 year old is still in a car seat as she is only 137cm. Even though I purchased her a new car seat 2 years ago and got the largest one they had Because I was determined to keep her in one till she was 145cm high,
    She has almost out grown it, not so much in height but width and she is not a large child. In addition to that the seat pretty much hits the roof of my Toyota corolla and it can not be raised any more. So whilst I would happily keep her in a car seat till she is 145cm. I don’t think it will be possible. It is an unrealistic goal at the moment as you physically can’t achieve it. It is not just the parents that need education it is car seat manufacturers as well.

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