New laws have been passed that make it mandatory for children under seven to be restrained in an appropriate child restraint. These laws are designed to increase the safety of your children and reduce the number of children injured or killed in car accidents. Summary of the new legislation: Babies younger than six months of age must be restrained in a rearward facing restraint. Children from six months to four years of age must be restrained in a rearward facing or forward facing restraint. Children under four years of age must not travel in the front row of a vehicle with two or more rows. Children from four to seven years of age must be seated in a forward facing restraint or booster seat. Children from four to seven years of age can only sit in the front row of a vehicle with two or more rows when all other seats are occupied by children of a lesser age in an approved child restraint. What if my child is small, or large, for their age? If your child is too small for a restraint specified for their age, they should be kept in their current of restraint for as long as necessary. If your child is too large for a restraint specified for their age, they may move to the next level of restraint. Basically if your child is under seven and fits in a restraint, they should be in one, providing they suit the weight requirement as specified by the car seat manufacturer. New car seats suiting children up to 36kg will be available on the market shortly. Why was the legislation implemented? The current evidence shows that most parents in Australia move their child out of child restraints and into adult seat belts from around five years of age. Research indicates that this is too early and increases the potential for serious injury and death. Car accidents are associated with a large number of child fatalities in Australia. Between 1999 and 2003, 587 children aged 0-14 years died as a result of transport accidents. This accounts for 40% of all fatalities in this age group due to external causes. A study conducted in the United States found infant car restraints reduced the risk of death by 75% for children aged up to one year and by 60% for those aged 2 and 3 years.? According to Dr Jeff Potter, the National Transport Commission?s Senior Manager?Safety, new age-based minimum standards would improve public understanding and reduce injuries. ?While many parents and carers strive to do the right thing, the research shows children are moving to bigger seats too early. The new laws will provide better guidance informed by the latest available technology, research and world?s best practice,? Dr Potter said. Why do the new rules refer to the age of the child, rather than their weight, size or height? Regulations using the age of the user will result in the smallest percentage of infants being inappropriately restrained, rather than if the regulations were specific about the height, weight or size of the passenger. Guidelines are also easier for parents and carers to understand and follow if given in terms of age, as it is much easier to remember a childs age than their height and weight. Can I use a child restraint that was purchased overseas? No you cannot. Child restraints purchased overseas do not comply with the Australian Standard and are not always compatible with Australian vehicles. All infant restraints that meet the Australian Standard will clearly display this label. If your restraint does not have the label affixed, even if it has fallen off due to age, the restraint should be considered unsafe and it is not recommended that you use it. ? All Australian vehicles have a uniquely developed tether strap anchorage system, which only Australian Standard approved child restraints are compatible with. In addition, the Australian Standard for child restraints is one of the most stringent child restraint standards in the world. Unlike the European Standard, the Australian standard requires all restraints to be tested in both side and rear impact tests. Can I hire a baby capsule, child restraint or booster seat? Yes. Child restraints can be hired from private companies, hospitals and local councils. Who is responsible for ensuring a child is restrained in an approved restraint? The driver of the motor vehicle is responsible for ensuring all children are restrained in appropriate, standards approved restraints. Penalties will apply for failing to ensure all children are appropriately restrained. Is there an amnesty period after the new laws are introduced? In some States, police officers have the discretion to issue warnings instead of infringement notices, however in the interests of improved child road safety it is recommended parents comply with the new requirements immediately. For more information: Nationally Australian Transport Safety Bureau website? ph: 1800 020 616 ? ? ?