Child restraints will help keep your child safe when travelling by car. From 1 November 2013 the mandatory use of child restraints in vehicles will be extended by two years. This means that in New Zealand, all children will be required to be correctly secured in an ‘approved’ restraint until their seventh birthday. The law will continue to require all children aged seven to be secured in an approved child restraint if one is available in the vehicle.
It is important to take a pro-active role in ensuring you understand what the legal requirements are for restraining children in a vehicle, as well as what information you need to know when renting or purchasing (new and used) child restraints.
From 1 November, as the driver, you must make sure that any child under seven years of age is properly restrained by an approved child restraint that is appropriate for the age and size of the child. They must not travel in the car if you can’t put them in an approved child restraint. The vehicle’s safety belt on its own is not an approved child restraint.
Approved child restraints are ones that meet approved standards so you can be sure their design and construction is laboratory tested under crash conditions.
Approved child restraints include:
All approved child restraints will display standard markings to show they have been approved.
The specific type of child restraint you need to use depends on the age and size of the child. Suggested guidelines are given below but you should refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to find a child restraint that best fits your child.
As a general rule, if your child’s head is higher than the back of the child restraint when seated, it’s time to move them into the next type of child restraint.
Some restraints fit the shape of some vehicle seats and safety belts better than others. Make sure the child restraint you rent or buy fits your vehicle seats and safety belts properly, and ask if you can return it if you find it doesn’t fit properly.
It is strongly recommended that to keep babies and toddlers safe they travel rear-facing until 2 years of age. Whilst this is not a legal requirement, it is a recommendation based on best practice (source: The American Academy of Pediatrics) and one that is endorsed by Plunket in New Zealand. Older children should stay in their forward-facing child restraint or booster seat until they outgrow it.
A child restraint must meet an approved standard. This means that the design and the construction of the child restraint is laboratory tested under crash conditions. Look for a child restraint that shows:
For further information regarding approved standards for child restraints, please contact NZTA on 0800 699 000.
The most suitable type of child restraint required to keep a child safe will vary depending on the child’s size. Also if you have multiple children and child restraints, it’s important to find out the best combination for your children and your vehicle. So it’s important to seek expert advice and ideally have the restraints fitted to your vehicle.
More information about approved standards for child restraints and a list of certified Child Restraint Technicians who can provide expert advice can be found at www.nzta.govt.nz/childrestraints.
A child doesn’t have to be in an approved child restraint if they’re travelling in a:
However, where a safety belt is available in any of these vehicles, the child must be restrained, and where an approved child restraint is available, it must be used (where appropriate for the child’s age and weight).
Taxi companies will probably provide child restraints if you give them reasonable notice.
Note that the driver of a passenger service vehicle, such as a bus or taxi, is not legally responsible for ensuring seat belts are used (if fitted). It’s up to the person in charge of the child to make sure they are used.