There are often a lot of questions thrown around the online parenting forums when it comes to car seats and everyone will have an opinion on the when, what and hows… look at any post from an influencer showing their child in a carseat and you will no doubt see the ‘online safety experts’ pulling them up on something that doesn’t look right.
It’s pretty common knowledge that by law, all children must be safely fastened in the correct child car seat for their age and size. We have very high standards in Australia when it comes to safety – which is amazing – and there have been plenty of ad campaigns demonstrating how a child secured in an approved child car seat, is much less likely to be injured or killed in a car crash than one who is not.
But do we truly understand the details of these rules and regulations? I know from personal experience that professional car fitters may advise differently to each other and let’s not get started on the advice thrown around those forums. So we decided to find the answers…
National Child Restraint Laws
According to the NSW Government Centre for Road Safety:
- Children up to the age of six months must be secured in an approved rearward facing restraint
- Children from six months – four years old must be secured in either a rear or forward facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness
- Children under four years cannot travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows
- Children from four years – seven years old must be secured in a forward facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness or an approved booster seat
- Children aged from four years – seven years old cannot travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows, unless all other back seats are occupied by children younger than seven years in an approved child restraint or booster seat
- Children in booster seats must be restrained by a suitable lap and sash type approved seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened, or by a suitable approved child safety harness that is properly adjusted and fastened
Although there are recommended ages for car seats, there are exceptions. If your child is too small for the child restraint specified for their age, they should be kept in their current child restraint until it is safe for them to move to the next level. If your child is too large for the child restraint specified for their age, they may move to the next level of child restraint.
The Child Car Seats website compares more than 200 versions of forward facing and rear facing car seats, and booster seats. They have details of how seats are tested and rated, how to install seats correctly and how to check if an older model still meets the Australian safety standards.
All car seats on the Child Car Seats website meet the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1754. However, this sets the minimum safety requirements for child car seats and it is recommended to use a car seat that far exceed these minimum requirements.
Upgrading your baby from one car seat to the next
Every child is different, however as a general rule you should only move your child to the next level of protection when they no longer fit their current child car seat. Your child will usually indicate when they are uncomfortable and even when they are very young, you should be able to notice discomfort. Here is a checklist to cover the different stages of moving through car seats:
From rear-facing to forward-facing
- When your baby is between 6-12 months and can hold their head up
- Your baby’s car seat has shoulder marks printed or sewn on the cover, move your baby to a forward-facing car seat when their shoulders have passed the upper marks
From forwarding-facing to booster seat
- Their shoulders no longer fit comfortably within the child seat
- Their eye level is higher than the back of the seat
- The top insertion slots for the shoulder straps are below the level of your child’s shoulders
From booster seat to seatbelt
This five-step test can help assess whether your child is ready for a seatbelt:
- Sit with their back against the seat back
- Bend their knees comfortably over the front of the seat cushion
- Sit with the sash belt across their mid-shoulder
- Sit with the lap belt across the top of their thighs
- Remain in this position for the whole trip
Travelling on public transport when a car seat is required
As you start getting out and about more with your baby, you may also come to a point where you want or need to take public transport. Each state will have different laws when it comes to safety requirements, so it is best to check in with your local state or destination if you are travelling interstate.
In New South Wales, taxi drivers are required to ensure:
- All passengers younger than 6 months must be secured in an approved rearward facing car seat
- All passengers aged 6 months to less than 6 months must be secured in an approved rearward or forward-facing child car seat
In New South Wales, all wheelchair accessible taxis are required to carry an approved child car seat. If you need a car seat for your child, you should ask for one when booking a taxi or take one with you.
In Victoria, taxi drivers do not have to provide a child car seat or booster seat but must ensure their vehicle has an anchor point so that a child car seat can be fitted.
Taking and Uber with young children
Ridesharing services such as Uber must follow the legal requirements within each state when it comes to car seats. Whilst they don’t have to offer car seats as part of their service, this is completely understandable. How could they carry around and maintain at least three different variations of car seats?! In saying that, if you they must provide an anchor point for you to fix a child car seat if you bring one alone, although I’m not sure you are going to want to lug around a car seat at your destination.
From what we understand, Uber is offering family-friendly services in New York and certainly hope that one day this will arrive here.
In the meantime there are other great family-friendly services available on our shores such as:
We have personally used and enjoyed the Bubs Taxi service here at Kiindred. The cars have always been premium, drivers lovely and the car seats extremely clean. Even when we had to request three car seats to get us to the airport – they had it covered. Whilst you might pay a little more for this service, it is prompt and will get you to your destination safely and on time.
Whilst Sheebah is an all-women rideshare service (sorry dads), many of their cars are fitted with child and baby seats upon request. The put safety and comfort first and are also the ONLY legal rideshare for children, since all Shebah drivers have a Working With Children check. This means that your child can travel without a legal guardian present, which I can imagine would be extremely useful in times of need or for slightly older children with busy parents.