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What you need to know about baby and child seat laws
Updated 10 Oct 2019
There’s no question that when travelling in a car, the safest place for a young child is the back seat.
But what might seem like common sense to some isn’t necessarily sensible to others, so there are firm laws set around keeping your kiddos safe from harm in the event of an accident.
At what age is your little one safe to sit in the front seat? Sit tight, we’ll help you figure that out.
There are different laws in each Australian state and territory that regulate which car seat you need for your child from birth to 16 years, so make sure you check your local laws via the links at the end of this article.
Now, let’s take a good look at common laws so you can make educated choices when it comes to the safety of your little one/s.
A newborn child should always be securely fastened into a rear-facing child seat, like an infant capsule or a convertible car seat specifically designed for newborn babies.
The seat must be mounted in the back seat. The left hand passenger side of the car is safest for when parked on the side of the road and transferring your baby in and out of the car.
Make sure the baby seat is properly fastened and adjusted using a five or six-point harness.
Keep your little one in a rear-facing safety seat until they outgrow it.
By law, they must be rear-facing until they are at least six months old, but research shows the longer they stay in a rear-facing seat, the better.
Even two-year-old kids are fine in rear-facing seats, so long as they don’t exceed the sizing specified by the seat manufacturer.
From 6 months to at least four years of age children must remain in the back seat, safely strapped into an approved, properly fastened and adjusted child restraint with an inbuilt harness.
That means a properly sized forward or rear-facing seat with a five or six-point harness is required for children aged between six months and four years.
Once your child reaches four years of age, they’re no longer required to use a child seat with a harness.
Whilst it’s not mandatory, it is still safest for your child to be seated in an approved, properly fastened and adjusted forward facing child restraint with an in-built harness.
The alternative to this is a properly positioned, approved booster seat and a seatbelt that is properly fastened and adjusted.
Until your child outgrows their child safety seat, it’s a good idea to keep using it.
Remember: you’re the parent and it’s your job to enforce safe car rules until you think your child is ready to progress.
Where a car has two or more rows of seats, kids under four years of age must not travel in the front seat.
School Age Kids
Children aged between four and seven years must not travel in the front seat unless all other seats are being used by children under seven years of age.
If this is the case, a child may travel in the front seat using an approved booster seat and a properly fastened and adjusted seatbelt.
Four to seven year old children travelling in the back seat are permitted to use a lap sash seatbelt, although a booster seat along with a properly adjusted seatbelt is the best combo.
It raises your child to a height where the belt crosses at their shoulder, not their neck or face which is much safer in the case of sudden stopping or an accident. It’s more comfortable as well!
Kids aged 7 years and older
From seven years of age and up, kids may ride in the front seat by law. That said, it’s still safest for youngsters to remain in the backseat as long as possible. In a collision, their bodies are more susceptible to injury from airbags, even when seated in a booster seat and properly buckled in.
For safety’s sake, your child should use a booster seat as long as they still fit.
In a collision, the booster seat positions them to avoid injuries that could have been avoided, such as neck injuries from the seatbelt.
Many car manufacturers recommend that front seat passengers be aged 12 years or older. If space permits, your kids are safer riding in the back seat until 12 years of age.
They may not like it, but failure to comply with child restraint requirements is a serious offence and my result in substantial fines and demerit points.
Besides, as an adult you know what’s best for your child. Most kids don’t like veggies, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to eat them!
Visit AutoGuru to find and book Australia’s best mechanics. We can connect you with 1600 workshops and mobile mechanics that can safely install and fit your child seat restraint in no time at all.
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Jason is a Canadian automotive content writer with a background in the auto service industry, but he’s been hooked on cars and mechanics since childhood.
One of his first cars was an ’80 Mazda RX-7 that’s sorely missed to this day. A ’68 Ford Torino GT, a ’66 Ford Country Squire Woodie station wagon, and a ’96 Suzuki GSX-R 750 have spent time in his fleet of cars, bikes, and trucks over the past two decades.
Jason’s pride and joy is under construction – a turbocharged ’88 Mazda RX-7 convertible. Also on his resume is CASCAR official certification.