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Using child restraints safely

Under New Zealand law, all children under seven years of age must use an approved child restraint appropriate for their age and size. Children aged seven must be secured in a restraint if one is available in the vehicle.

Requirements for child restraints

Age of child The law says you must:
Until their 7th birthday Correctly secure your child in an approved child restraint
From their 7th to their 8th birthday Correctly secure your child in an approved child restraint if one is available in the vehicle (and if not, in any child restraint or safety belt that is available)
From 8th birthday to 14 years old Must use safety belts if available. If not available, they must travel in the back seat.
Over 14 years old Must use safety belts where they are available.

International best practice recommends the use of an appropriate child restraint (or booster seat) until your child reaches 148 centimetres tall or is 11 years old.  Child restraint and medical professionals recommend that you keep your baby in a rear-facing restraint until as old as practicable, at least until they are 2 years of age.

For more information:

What are child restraints?

 Approved child restraints include:

  • infant restraints for young babies (often called baby capsules)

  • restraints for older babies, toddlers and preschool children (often called car seats)

  • booster seats for preschool and school-aged children

  • child safety harnesses (used with or without a booster seat) for preschool and school-aged children.

All approved child restraints display standard markings to show they are approved.

It’s a driver’s responsibility

As the driver, you are responsible for ensuring that any child travelling in your vehicle is correctly using an appropriate child restraint. Find out what the legal requirements are [PDF, 243 KB].

How to tell if a child restraint is safe for New Zealand

All child restraints must meet an approved standard. This ensures a restraint's design and construction are laboratory tested under crash conditions.

Look for a child restraint that shows:

  • a tick mark (indicates the restraint meets the joint New Zealand/Australian Standard AS/NZ 1754)

 Australian standard

  • an 'E' mark (indicates the restraint meets the European Standard ECE 44) – the number on the circle will vary depending on the country of certification.



Or, look for a restraint that complies with the United States Standard FMVSS 213. The restraint must also show the New Zealand Standard 'S' mark indicating it is certified for use here.


Restraint attachments

Requirements for how the restraints are attached are part of the American and European standards. Restraints that comply with these standards come with connectors called LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) in the United States or ISOFIX in Europe. Both systems have lower anchors in the vehicle and lower attachments on child restraints. This method of installation allows a child restraint to be snapped into place instead of being held by the safety belt.

Find out more about LATCH and ISOFIX systems (external link) .

Exceptions to the law

A child doesn't have to be seated in an approved child restraint if they're travelling in a:

  • vintage vehicle (first registered before 1955) that is not fitted with safety belts

  • passenger service vehicle (eg taxi, shuttle, bus) when no appropriate child restraint is available.

However, where a safety belt is available , the child must be restrained, and where an approved child restraint is available, it must be used (where appropriate for the child's age and weight).

Taxi companies may provide child restraints if you give them 24 hours notice.

Note that the driver of a passenger service vehicle, such as a bus or taxi, is not legally responsible for ensuring safety belts are used (if fitted). However if an appropriate child restraint is available in the vehicle then that taxi driver is responsible for ensuring that a child under seven is restrained in it (the same as any other driver).

Note that the driver of a bus is not responsible for ensuring a child is appropriately restrained. It is up to the person in charge of the child to make sure they are correctly restrained.

A child aged seven or over, but under the age of 15, may be seated in the front seat of a vehicle without an approved suitable child restraint if there is no back seat, or the back seat is already full of other children under 15 years old. The child must be restrained using the available safety belt.

In exceptional circumstances a medical practitioner may provide a certificate to provide exemption from the use of a child restraint for a specified period of time.

Need a child restraint for your visit to New Zealand?

You can hire car restraints for your visit from a number of hire outlets. The largest supplier is Plunket, (external link)  which hires a variety of infant and child restraints.

If you're bringing a restraint with you it must comply with approved standards:

  • the joint Australia/New Zealand standard AS/NZS 1754

  • the American standard FMVSS 213

  • the European standard shown by E3 (or another number depicting the European country).

Need a restraint for overseas travel?

For Australia

While age requirements for the use of child restraints vary from state to state, all states require them to be used. The one accepted standard for a child restraints throughout Australia is AS/NZS 1754.

Both infant and child restraints have tether straps and all vehicles manufactured in Australia are required to have the tether anchorages inserted, making installation of the tether easy.

When flying

Ask the airlines you're travelling with whether they will accept your child restraint. Different airlines have different requirements. You need to check that your restraint is certified for aircraft use (check the instruction book or check for a sticker on the restraint).

  • In Australia – generally the AS/NZS 1754 standard is not used for aircraft certification, although some Australian airlines accept it.

  • In the United States – take a restraint meeting FMVSS 213.

  • In Europe – take a restraint meeting R44, the European standard shown by E3 or another number (depicting the European country). These restraints are available in New Zealand.

  • In Canada – only the Canadian standard is accepted.

It's unlikely that you'll be refused entry if you take a restraint other than one of those recommended for the country. Most problems are likely to arise over insurance if you have a crash. It is likely that insurance will not be paid out if the restraint is not one recommended for that specific country.

Find out more information

Find more information about child restraints:

Plunket (external link) rental schemes offer a variety of affordable infant and child restraints available for short- and long-term hire.

Other vehicle features that increase your safety

Learn about other vehicle safety features that can protect you and your passengers in a crash.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution New Zealand Licence