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Less than two weeks until child restraint laws change

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The NZ Transport Agency is urging parents and caregivers to make sure they are prepared for new child restraint laws which come into force in just two weeks.

From Friday November 1 the mandatory use of child restraints in vehicles will be extended by two years - so all children will need to be correctly secured in an approved child restraint until at least their 7th birthday.

The current law already requires all children aged five to seven to be secured in an approved child restraint if one is available in the vehicle, and this rule will continue to apply for children aged seven.

This means that from November 1, all children aged 0-6 will need to be correctly secured in an approved child restraint whenever they travel, and children aged seven will need to be secured in an approved restraint if one is available in the vehicle they are travelling in.

Approved child restraints can include baby capsules, car seats and booster seats.

The Transport Agency is also reminding parents and caregivers that while it is recommended best practice that children use a booster seat or other approved restraint until they reach 148cm in height, the legal requirement for child restraint use in New Zealand is based on age, and there are no height-based requirements being introduced with the new rules on 1 November.

Transport Agency road safety director Ernst Zöllner says the new rules will help to keep more children safe on New Zealand roads.

“The new rules for child restraint use are being introduced for one purpose - to keep our smallest passengers safe on New Zealand roads. The death or serious injury of any child is a tragedy, and even more so when it can be prevented with the use of simple and widely available equipment like child restraints,” Mr Zöllner said.

Seats and safety belts 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.

Mr Zöllner said for safety reasons child restraints used in New Zealand must be ‘approved’ and must display standards markings to show they are approved and safe to be used.

The changes being introduced on November 1 will also remove a current exemption to the child restraint laws relating to some heavy goods vehicles. Drivers of goods vehicles with an unladen weight exceeding 2,000 kg, in which safety belts are not available, are currently exempt from complying with child restraint requirements.

Modern goods vehicles are fitted with safety belts and there is no longer any justification for keeping this provision in the legislation. Removing this provision 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.

More information about approved standards for child restraints and list of certified Child Restraint Technicians, who can provide expert advice, can be found at www.nzta.govt.nz/childrestraints(external link)

Child restraint rules - what's changing

Legal requirement Now From 1 November 2013
Driver must correctly secure child in an approved child restraint until… …their 5th birthday …their 7th birthday
Legal requirement Now From 1 November 2013
Driver must correctly secure child in an approved child restraint if one is available in the vehicle*… …from their 5th birthday until their 8th birthday …from their 7th birthday until their 8th birthday

*If no approved child restraint is available child must be restrained in any child restraint or safety belt that is available.

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