Car safety and children

Updated raisingchildren.net.au resources give parents and carers clear, practical information on child car seat requirements, as well as other car safety recommendations.

When should children move from one type of car seat to another? Can children be left unattended in cars? How can children stay comfortable while on a long car trip? raisingchildren.net.au answers these questions and more in a suite of updated car safety resources for parents and carers.

Child car seats

Children aged up to at least 7 years must use a child car seat when travelling in motor vehicles. The right type of car seat depends on a child’s age and size. These are the minimum legal requirements:

  • Babies must use a rear-facing car seat with an inbuilt harness for at least the first 6 months of life.
  • Children aged 6 months up to 4 years must use a rear-facing child car seat with an inbuilt harness OR a forward-facing child car seat with an inbuilt harness.
  • Children aged 4 years up to 7 years must use a forward-facing child car seat with an inbuilt harness OR a booster seat with a lap-sash adult seatbelt or child safety harness.
  • Children aged 7 years or older must use a booster seat with a lap-sash adult seatbelt or child safety harness OR a vehicle seat with a properly adjusted and fastened lap-sash adult seatbelt.

In addition, it’s recommended that:

  • Children stay rear-facing until at least 12 months old and move to forward-facing car seats when their shoulders reach the shoulder height markers on their rear-facing seat.
  • Children only use a vehicle seat when they’re 145 cm tall and can pass the 5-step lap-sash seatbelt test.

See these articles on types of car seats, choosing and installing car seats and car seats in taxis, rideshare and buses for more information.

Leaving children in cars

Children should never be left unattended in a car, even for a moment. Heat is the main risk. If a parent or carer needs to leave the car, they should always take their child with them.

Children can be accidentally left in cars when parents or carers forget that their child is in the back seat. This lapse in short-term memory can happen when parents and carers feel tired, stressed or anxious, get distracted, or have a change in routine.

See these articles on never leaving children in cars and accidentally leaving children in cars and how to prevent it for more information.

Child car comfort

When children are comfortable, engaged and happy in the car, they’re less likely to distract drivers. Here are some tips for long car trips or hot days:

  • Plan regular stretch breaks – every 1-2 hours.
  • Cool the car and check for hot surfaces before children get in.
  • Ensure children have comfortable and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Provide plenty of water and healthy snacks.
  • Chat while driving, sing karaoke, play games or listen an audio story.
  • Praise children for good behaviour like leaving seatbelts on.

See this article on child car comfort for more information.

Also from Raising Children Network: Subscribe for FREE text-based support with ‘Play Learn Grow’

Toddlers learn through play. Parents and carers of two- and three-year-olds can text PLAY to 0428 606 027 to receive free text messages with tips from early childhood experts to support their child’s learning, development, health and wellbeing at home.

Play Learn Grow is now available in English, Arabic (العربية), Dari (درى), Farsi (فارسی), Karen (ကညီကျိာ်) and Simplified Chinese (简体字). Find out more: www.vic.gov.au/playlearngrow

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