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A significant improvement to Victorian child safety road rules ... and hopefully the rest of the Australia.

In April 2008 Safe-n-Sound advised that all State and Territory governments had agreed to adopt new National Road Safety Laws recommended in 2007. Given that these laws are state based, each state has been working on the details to draft legislation and pass the laws through each respective State or Territory parliament. On 28th May 2009, the Victorian Roads and Ports Minister became the first state minister to announce adoption of the changes and an implementation timetable for Victoria.

The Victorian government has announced that effective from 9th November 2009 all Victorian children up to the age of seven years will need to be secured in an approved restraint or booster seat when travelling in a vehicle.

Australian Standard for child restraints in vehicles distributed by Standards Australia on 7 June 2013

So what are the changes announced in Victoria?

The Victorian changes to the road safety laws for child restraint and booster seat requires:

  • Children less than six months to be secured in an approved, properly fastened and adjusted, rear-facing child restraint, such as an infant capsule;
  • Children from six months to less than four years must be secured in an approved, properly fastened and adjusted, rear-facing child restraint or a forward-facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness;
  • Children aged from four years to less than seven years must wear an approved, properly fastened and adjusted, forward-facing child restraint with in-built harness or an approved booster seat which is properly positioned and fastened; and
  • From seven years of age children can travel in a car secured in either:
    • a booster seat;
    • a booster seat and child harness;
    • a seat belt and child harness; or
    • the car's seat belt.

The new Victorian road safety laws relate to children up to seven years old travelling in vehicles with two or more rows of seats. The Victorian road safety laws also require:

  • Children under four years will not be allowed to travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows; and
  • Children aged between four and less than seven years will not be allowed to travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows, unless all other back seats are occupied by children under seven years of age.

What about the other states?

Safe-n-Sound has been in contact with all State and Territory Ministers since the National Transport Commission (NTC) recommendations were published in February 2008. Through these discussions we believe that all State and Territory governments are looking to adopt the NTC recommendations during 2009.

Full details of the changes to the Victorian road safety laws are yet to be released. As there are slight differences in the road rules in each state, it is at the moment unclear how all states will adopt the National Road Safety Laws or their timeframe for implementation.

Why are they making these changes?

Approximately 500 children a year are killed or seriously injured in car accidents nationally. This reform responds to calls from road safety experts, police and local communities for a stronger minimum standard.

Research shows that younger children are not correctly restrained when they move to a booster too early or when they are just sitting on the car seat using the seat belt. Experts suggest that children are moving too early into inappropriate restraints such as booster seats and seat belts, which are not appropriate for their weight and height and therefore increase the risk of injury.

In announcing the changes, the Victorian government stated that "seating children aged four to seven years old in an appropriate booster seat reduces their risk of injury in a crash by almost 60 per cent, compared to sitting with only an adult seat belt."

Why announce November changes now?

The Victorian government stated that the "Government was alerting people early of the implementation of the new rules to allow parents and carers enough time to get ready for the changes."

Safe-n-Sound recommend that parents and carers who already have the appropriate child restraints or booster seats start following the new rules now to ensure young passengers are as safe as possible when they travel.

Safe-n-Sound believes that other State and Territory governments will also provide a period of adjustment to allow parents to prepare for the changes.

What are the penalties for not complying?

We believe the Victorian government will continue with the current penalties for non-compliance with the restraint laws which includes a fine of $255 and three demerit points. At this time, it is unclear when police will begin to enforce these laws.

Are Safe-n-Sound products going to change as a result of the road safety laws?

All products currently sold by Safe-n-Sound will allow for parents and carers to transport children in a manner that will satisfy the existing road rules in each state and territory as well as satisfying the new road safety laws as proposed by the Victorian government. No change to the product is required. The proposed National Road Safety Laws govern use of the product, not the design and specification. To help you and your customers select the right Safe-n-Sound product for your child we have prepared the included guide.

Are there any exemptions to these new road safety laws?

At this stage Safe-n-Sound is yet to see the draft legislation, however based on comments from the Victorian government it would appear that:

  • Taxis will continue to be exempt from the child restraint requirements. When there is no suitable child restraint available, a seat belt must be worn;
  • The new laws aim to cater for the majority of children; however, there is a provision to allow a child who is too tall or heavy for the recommended restraint to use the restraint in the next age category;
  • Vehicles with only one row of seats are exempt from the requirement that the child must sit in the rear seat.
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