Car Safety

Child Car Seat Rules and Safety: Do You Know The Rules?

If you have kids you can expect to set up a second home in your car. So it’s no wonder we all want a car that is comfortable, cruisy to drive and exceeds the safety standards. But do you know the right child car seat rules?

Of course, a car is only as safe as the person driving it AND as safe as the car seats you’ve got installed in the back.

One of the main causes of death and injury is incorrect child car restraint. Did you know 70% of child car restraints are incorrectly installed or used? Scary, right?

Holden SUV range, car seat safety quiz
A correctly fitted car seat is so critically important. Source: Holden

You may be surprised how many of us are actually quite rusty when it comes to child car seat rules. Take our quick quiz to see where your child car seat safety knowledge sits and to ensure your car is as safe as possible for the kids.

Test your child car seat rules and safety knowledge

1. What age should I swap my baby from a capsule to a car seat?

A. Four months
B. Six months
C. Nine months
D. Depends on the baby’s height

Most baby capsule brands promote that their capsule will last up to around 6 months old. However, every baby grows at a different rate and many infants will be able to fit in a capsule for much longer. Parents should always go by shoulder height instead of age. As long as the baby’s shoulders are below the height marker on the baby capsule, then it’s safe to keep using.

car seat safety

2. When is the best time to turn your children around (rear to front facing)

A. At six months
B. At one year of age
C. At two years of age

Babies six months and up and that meet the markers are legally allowed to use a car seat that is forward-facing. You can read more about this here.

However, experts recommend holding off on swapping the seat until your baby is two. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially if you have a toddler who gets car sick if facing backward or simply wants to be able to see you when driving.

REAL STORY: This mum shared a warning with us after her 23-month-old son was in a car accident. She chose to keep him rear-facing and believes it’s what saved his life.

Holden child's car seat safety
We mums are the original Uber-drivers. Except, of course, our kids get a free ride.

3. At What age can children stop being in a booster seat?

A. Aged 8
B. Aged 7
C. Age doesn’t matter

Although the law states
children 7 years and older can ride without a booster seat, most children are still too small at this age and SHOULD remain in a booster for safety purposes. 

Many children aren’t big enough to safely wear an adult seatbelt until they’re 10-12 years old. This is because adult seatbelts are designed for people who are at least 145cm tall.

REAL STORY: In 2017, a 7-year-old named Indiana was in a horrific car accident. however, she was still in a booster seat. Indiana’s mum tells Mum Central: “If our daughter Indiana was not in a car seat, and the law says that she does not need to sit in a car seat, I think the reality is, she would be dead.”

4. When should you switch a child’s car seat?

A. When they can sit with their backs firmly against the seat back
B. When they can bend their knees comfortably over the front of the seat cushion
C. When they can sit with the sash belt across their mid-shoulder
D. When they can sit with the lap belt across the top of their thighs.
E. When they can stay in this position for the whole car trip
F. ALL of the above.

Children should be able to pass these five-steps outlined above before moving out of a booster seat. If in doubt, always check the shoulder height markers. These markers show when your child can start using a restraint, when the seat can be converted to the next model, and when your child has outgrown the restraint.

summer hot car safety tips

5. At what age should children sit in the front seat?

A. 7

The safest place for all children younger than 13 years is the back seat.

car seat safety

6. Where is the safest position in the car? 

A. In the back, left side
B. In the back, right side
C. In the back, centre
D. In the front

Side-on collision and the force of airbags are less likely to impact the child if sitting in the centre position.

7. What car seat products must meet Australian/New Zealand standards 

A. Capsules, car seats and boosters only
B. Capsules, car seats, boosters plus all accessories such as seatbelt modifiers, covers, inserts or padding

If you’re buying accessories for your child restraint – like seatbelt modifiers, covers, inserts or padding – always look for those with Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 8005. It’s important that you use only accessories that come with the child restraint, or accessories approved for use with that particular restraint.

Holden car seats

Additional child car seat safety facts and tips

Don’t worry if you didn’t get them all (or many) right. The child car seat rules and regulations around car seat safety can be quite confusing. However, they are put in place for a reason – to protect our precious cargo.

In addition to the answers above, below are a few more things to keep in mind when it comes to car seat rules and safety:

  • Check the top tether strap – It should have a little movement, remain untwisted and be attached to an anchor point.
  • Avoid bulky clothing and coats – These heavy garments create an air gap, making them unsafe.
  • Double-check that your child isn’t trying to be a Houdini and escape. 
  • Check the inbuilt harness – Make sure it’s not twisted, that it’s not pinching and that you can slide your fingers between the belt and your child’s body.
  • ALWAYS check the back seat – You’d be surprised how many children get locked in a car every week. Over the past decade, eight children have died and approximately 5,000 have been rescued after being left in hot cars in Australia.

mum central

REAL STORY: Tragically a little girl lost her life after being locked in a hot car for several hours. According to reports, her babysitter left her in there unintentionally, thinking she had dropped the child off to daycare.

We parents do a lot of driving and, as our kids get older, this isn’t going to change. There will always be school drop-offs, after-school activities, and weekend outings. No matter how old they are, it’s important we are keeping them as safe as possible by knowing the current child car seat safety rules, from capsules to booster seats, and by choosing a vehicle that cares about the safety of our kids as much as we do.

Read more at: Child Car Seats

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  1. Avatar of Blossom

    There are another reasons why it is suggested that you put your child in the centre if possible.

    1. In an accident if either side of the rear seat space is damaged and crumples in too far it is more risky that the car harness or the seat itself will be damage
    2. If the glass in one of the doors is broken pieces of it could land on your baby and cause injuries, including the child’s eyes.

    I know somebody who has attended many motor vehicles. The only ones children were injured in were cases where the child wasn’t secured in the baby capsule / baby seat or booster seat correctly , the seat incorrectly installed or worse still child not harnessed in at all. A Police Officer who attended an accident in a country area discovered the driver and front passenger unfortunately were deceased. He started to walk away from the car, then his “heart went into his mouth” when he spotted a babyseat in the back of the car. He was almost too scared to check it for fear the baby would be deceased too. The baby may have woken at some point but was sound asleep. They could smell fuel so they lifted the baby out – still in her baby seat and did a radio call telling them they had rescued a baby and needed an ambulance urgently. The baby woke up just as the paramedics were putting her into the ambulance. She was rushed to the largest hospital nearby which has xray, ultrasound equipment available. She had no injuries at all, was kept under observation for a few hours, the grandparents located and given the baby to care for. We were told that had the baby not been correctly restrained in a very good quality babyseat it would have been a miracle if the baby girl would have survived.

  2. Avatar of Blossom

    Re Booster Seats, depending where their legs fit some children get “pins and needles” in their legs. For some children it can be painful. On a few occasions we have actually parked the car and let our son have a few minutes out of his seat. He tells his legs feel “funny and sore” On nice days we stand on the footpath so he can really stretch his legs. If it’s bad weather we let him stand on the floor in the car. He happily goes back into his booster seat, restrained as always.

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