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The amendment Rule makes changes to the child restraint requirements in the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004.
The overall objective of the changes is to reduce preventable deaths and serious injuries to child passengers travelling in a motor vehicle on New Zealand’s roads.
The proposals are part of the Government’s action towards meeting its goal of bringing New Zealand’s child restraint laws in line with international best practice – as outlined in the Safer Journeys to 2020 road safety strategy. At the same time it’s necessary to ensure families can reasonably be expected to be able to comply with these increased child safety measures.
From 1 November 2013 the mandatory use of child restraints will be extended to passengers who are aged under seven (ie until their seventh birthday). The requirement for children aged seven to be restrained in an appropriate child restraint if one is available will remain. ‘If one is available’ means if a suitable child restraint is in the vehicle your child must use it.
The provision that allows an older child not to use a child restraint, for medical reasons (by obtaining a certificate from a medical practitioner), will be extended to include children of any age. This provision currently applies only to children aged five years and older.
The amendment Rule removes the provision that currently allows the driver of a goods vehicle that has an unladen weight exceeding 2,000 kg, in which seat belts are not available, to carry a passenger under five years without the passenger being properly restrained by an approved child restraint that is appropriate for the child’s age and size.
|Requirement||Under current Rule||From November 2013|
|Child must be restrained in an appropriate approved child restraint||Until their 5th birthday||Until their 7th birthday|
|Child must be restrained in an appropriate approved child restraint or seatbelt if one is available||From their 5th birthday until their 8th birthday||From their 7th birthday until their 8th birthday|
|Child must use any child restraint or seatbelt that is available. If not available, they must travel in the back seat||Children aged eight to 14||Children aged eight to 14 – no change|
|Exception from using a child restraint||If a current medical certificate is provided certifying that use of a restraint is impracticable or undesirable for medical reasons, then the child does not have to be restrained in a child restraint or seatbelt. Applies to any person from age five and over||Exemption extended to include children under the age of five (previous medical certificate exemptions only available to children aged five or over)|
|If the vehicle is a goods vehicle (with an unladen weight exceeding 2000 kg) in which seatbelts are not available, then a child under five years of age is not required to be restrained||This exception has been removed and so children must now be appropriately restrained if travelling in these vehicles|
Extending the mandatory use of child restraints to passengers who are aged under seven years (ie until their seventh birthday)
Seats and seatbelts installed in vehicles are designed and manufactured to most effectively protect an average sized adult in the event of a crash. Children, because they are smaller and have a different body shape to adults, need additional seating equipment to keep them as safe as adults in a car.
Children who are smaller than car manufacturers’ recommended heights for being seated in adult seats and seatbelts are vulnerable to a number of serious injuries in the event of a crash.
Currently, children aged under five (ie until their fifth birthday) must be restrained in an ‘approved child restraint’ suitable for the size and weight of the child. By extending the mandatory age limit to children aged under seven (ie until their seventh birthday) all children aged five and six years old will be required to be more safely restrained.
The related provision for children aged seven to use an appropriate approved child restraint if one is available, or any available child restraint or seatbelt if an approved one is not available, remains. So if a suitable child restraint is available, it is proposed that a child should use it at least until their eighth birthday.
When children’s calves and thighs are too short for the depth of the adult car seat they intuitively slide their hips forward for greater comfort. This causes the lap portion of seatbelt to ride up over the soft tissues of their abdomen, rather than being positioned over the rigid pelvic bones, as they are designed to do for adults. This can cause serious abdominal injuries in a crash.
The shoulder portion of the seatbelt can also cut across a child’s neck and face and can cause severe upper neck and spinal trauma. A child may place the shoulder portion of the seatbelt under their arm or behind their back rather than off their shoulder as it is intended to be worn.
Because adult seatbelts do not fit children well and are uncomfortable, children in this group are liable to prefer riding unsecured. In the event of a crash unsecured children can be ejected through a vehicle window. Those situations are usually fatal.
The risk of ejection from a vehicle does not only apply to unrestrained children. In a crash, a child who is restrained only by a seatbelt can also slide out from under the seatbelt (referred to as ‘submarining’) and be ejected from the vehicle.
Using a booster seat lifts a child to the correct height/dimensions to best fit the adult seat belt, which in turn reduces the potential trauma suffered by a child in the event of a crash.
Extending the current provision that allows a child not to use a child restraint, for medical reasons, to all children under five
This amendment addresses a current anomaly in the Rule whereby only children aged five or over may be excepted from using a child restraint with a medical certificate, but not children under five.
Medical practitioners are able to provide a certificate when, in their judgement, use of an approved child restraint, is impracticable or undesirable for medical reasons.
Examples of the types of situations in which this could apply are when a child has recently had hip or other surgery and the child may be prevented from fitting into a standard child restraint by a cast that is fitted to immobilise the hip joint. Or there may be concerns about the seatbelt or the straps from a child restraint pressing against surgical wounds that are still healing.
The medical certificate has to be produced on demand to an enforcement officer.
Removing the exception for a driver of a goods vehicle having an unladen weight exceeding 2000 kg, in which seatbelts are not available, from ensuring that passengers under five years of age are restrained
This will help prevent deaths and injuries associated with children travelling in this type of vehicle that is not fitted with seatbelts. Modern goods vehicles are fitted with seatbelts and there is no longer any justification for keeping this provision in the Rule.
Removing this provison also aligns transport law with the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 requiring employers to take all practicable steps to ensure that no action or inaction of any employee while at work harms any other person.
Drivers of these vehicles are now responsible for ensuring all children aged under 15 (ie until their 15th birthday) travelling in their vehicle are secured in an appropriate child restraint or seat belt.
Types of child restraints include:
Child restraints used in New Zealand must be ‘approved’ and must display standards markings to show they are approved and safe to be used. Children must be seated in a restraint that provides a suitable fit (is appropriate) for their age and size.
It’s the driver’s responsibility for ensuring that any child under the age of 15 years travelling in their vehicle is correctly restrained.
This change will not affect every family. It may affect families of children who have a booster seat that is too small for their child to stay in from their fifth birthday or one that will become too small during the ages five to seven. Families who do not currently have a child restraint for any children aged five and six may also be affected by the change.
The change may also affect families with two working parents or caregivers who may have to purchase more than one child restraint per child. For example, if one parent drops off a child at school on their way to work and another parent or caregiver picks them after school in a different vehicle.
Approved booster seats vary in price and quality. Booster cushions are available from $30. For a child restraint to provide optimum protection it needs to provide both back and side support to protect from side-impact injuries. A booster seat that provides both back and side support can be bought for between $80 and $150.
More expensive booster seats are available which offer more features and protection and can be used for a longer period such as from one to 12 years.
Retail Institute accredited Child Restraint Technicians, retailers and other child restraint stakeholders will be able to advise parents and caregivers on their options.
The lead-in time for the new child restraint rules (four and a half months) takes into account the need for parents to plan ahead and make the most effective choice for their family.
Over time, parents will be able to better plan for the extended child restraint requirements, for example, by buying a child restraint which will fit a child up to the time they turn at least seven.
The Ministry of Social Development provides recoverable financial assistance for approved child restraints under two schemes:
It is proposed that both schemes would be amended to cover the extended use of child restraints.
People applying for financial assistance under either of these regimes will need to meet the Ministry of Social Development’s eligibility criteria.
Below are the mandatory child restraint requirements of New Zealand and other selected OECD countries. A number of countries mandate a height at which a child no longer has to use a booster seat.
|Country||Height requirement||Age requirement*|
|Australia||No height requirement||0–7 years|
|Belgium||No height requirement||0–12 years|
|Canada||Alberta: No height requirement||Alberta: 0–7 years|
|Quebec: 63 centimetres seated height||Quebec: No age requirement|
|British Columbia: 145 centimetres||British Columbia: 0–10 years|
|Germany||0–150 centimetres||0–12 years|
|Hungary||0–150 centimetres||0–12 years|
|Japan||No height requirements||0–7 years|
|Switzerland||0–150 centimetres||0–12 years|
|New Zealand||No height requirement||0–5 years|
|Spain||0–150 centimetres||0–12 years|
|United Kingdom||0–135 centimetres||0–12 years|
|United States||Varies by State||Varies by state, generally 0–9 years|
* The age requirements are up to the age stated.
There is evidence that all children who are shorter than 148 cm in height are significantly safer in a booster seat than when using an adult seat alone.
Extending New Zealand’s requirements to children up to a standing height of 148 cm or up to 11 years age, therefore, would be more consistent with international best practice and car manufacturer recommendations. However, the changes being introduced also take into account that there will be an increased cost to some parents and caregivers for children to whom the extended requirements will apply.
Through business as usual work the NZTA will continue to recommend to parents and caregivers that best-practice is to keep children in a child restraint until they’re 148cm tall.
A copy of the final amendment Rule will be available for purchase from selected bookshops that sell legislation, or from Legislation Direct, telephone (04) 568 0005.
More information about the Rule amendment is available from the NZTA Contact Centre, on 0800 699 000.
More information on child restraints and where to find expert advice from a certified Child Restraint Technician is available at www.nzta.govt.nz/childrestraints.
Page created: 17 June 2013