Wondering what the rules are for car restraints for your baby? While the exact legislation varies between Australian states and territories, here is a quick overview.
From birth to six months
Babies below six months old must be in a safely secured rear-facing restraint. This can be either a capsule or a convertible, but it must be rear-facing and it must meet Australian safety standards.
From six months to 12 months
Legally, once a baby is six months old and meets the relevant marker in their restraint, they can be switched to front-facing. Best-practice guidelines recommend that babies remain rear-facing for at least 12 months privided they are within the markers for the restraint you have.
12 months and over
Extended rear-facing restraints (sometimes shorted to ERF), can accommodate babies up to approximately 30 months old. Legally, children can remain rear-facing until they are 4 years old if they fit within the markers of their child restraint.
Once your child outgrows the rear-facing markers for their restraint, or once they are 4 years old, you will need to turn them forward-facing. While it is an option to use a seatbelt booster from 4 years old if they meet the entry marker on that type of seat, it is recommended that children remain harnessed for as long as possible. There are several options on the market for keeping your child harnessed in the car.
From 7 years of age, it's legal for your child to travel in the car without a restraint. Remember, though, that just because it's legal, doesn't mean it's always the safest option for your child. If they still fit within the markers, a restraint will provide extra security and keep them positioned better while you go from A to B.
At any age
- If your car has two rows of seats, your baby must not be seated in the front row.
- Baby harnesses (six-point harnesses) should be used as long as possible to provide maximum safety. They will come with instructions and markers that you must follow on how to adjust with the growth of your baby, or when to upgrade restraints.
- Avoid buying second-hand car restraints as it can be impossible to know their history and they may not come with safe use instructions or labels showing that they meet Australian safety standards.