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Using child restraints safely

Updated: 5 February 2014

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.

Changes to child restraint laws

On 1 November 2013 the mandatory use of child restraints in vehicles was extended by two years, with all children required to be correctly secured in an approved restraint until their seventh birthday . The law continues to require all children aged seven to be secured in an approved child restraint if one is available in the vehicle, and if not in any child restraint or safety belt.

The requirements from 1 November 2013:

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)

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.

Requirements for child restraints

Children aged under seven must be secured in an approved child restraint when travelling in cars or vans.

  • Children aged seven must use a child restraint if available in the vehicle. If not available, they must use a safety belt. If a safety belt is not available they must travel in the back seat.
  • Children aged between eight and 14 must use safety belts if available. If not available, they must travel in the back seat.
  • People aged over 14 must wear 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.

It's a driver's responsibility

You as the driver 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.

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.

E3

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.

S standard

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).

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 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 restraint 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

See more information about child restraints:

Plunket 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.