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Baby car seats & infant child restraint safety

Posted in: safety, baby, toddler

All children should be seated in a suitable restraint when travelling in a car for their own safety. Adult seatbelts do not offer sufficient protection for babies and children and an appropriate child restraint must be used until your child reaches 7 years. This includes your first journey home from the hospital with your baby, so don't leave it too late to get one fitted!

The information given here is just a brief outline of the types of child restraints available. More comprehensive information, including legal requirements for wearing restraints, is available online via links at the bottom of the page for your state transport authority and state motoring organisation or from your local Kidsafe office. You can also read more at

Car Safety Restraints from the Parenting & Child Health section of the Child & Youth Health website, CYH, South Australia

Law Change

The law relating to child restraints has changed, as of November 9, 2009.  The current law is:

  • all children under seven years of age must use a child restraint or booster seat when travelling in a car
  • Children under 6 months must use an approved, properly fastened and adjusted rearward facing restraint
  • Children aged between 6 months and under 4 years must use an approved, properly fastened and adjusted rearward facing child restraint OR a forward facing restraint
  • Children aged between 4 years and under 7 years must use an approved, properly fastened and adjusted forward facing restraint or an approved booster seat which is properly positioned and fastened

Infant Car Seats & Restraints Explained
  • A baby restraint, or 'capsule' is a rear facing seat. This should be used until your child is at least 6 months old.
  • A child restraint is a rear/rearforward or forward facing seat with it's own belt system. This should be used until your child is at least 4 years old.
  • A booster seat is for children aged 4 - 7 years old.  If you have a booster seat that does not have it's own inbuilt seat belt system, ensure that you use the adult seat belt system correctly.  A lap-sash belt is the recommended system.  If you have a lap-only belt that can't be replaced with a lap-sash belt, consider using a child-harness.    For more information on using seat-belts with booster seats, see this article from the Roads & Traffic Authority, NSW

Hiring a baby capsule
Baby capsules can be hired from a number of sources. This does vary from state to state, in some regions you can hire from Kidsafe, maternity hospitals, local councils, ambulance services and Australian Red Cross as well as private hire companies. Hire rates, including fitting, are usually extremely reasonable and generally cover the first six months of the baby's life. Hiring the capsule offers an economical option and allows you to allay one of the costs of a newborn baby for a few months. These hire schemes are very popular and you should book well in advance. Click here for details of companies offering capsule hire in your region.

A baby capsule should be used until your child is at least six months old or at the recommended length/weight specified by the manufacturer.

Buying child restraints & capsules
You should ensure that any product you purchase carries the Australian Standard (AS/NZS) 1754 label and that when in use, it is correctly anchored to the vehicle using an Australian Standard's approved anchorage system.

Also ensure that the restraint purchased is suitable for your vehicle, particularly if you have a small car or older vehicle. If in any doubt, seek advice from your local Transport Authority or motoring organisation or Kidsafe (see more information section below for contact details).

Child restraints are widely available from general nursery stores. Some motoring organisations (RACQ in Qld, RAA in SA & RACT in Tas) (contact details in more information section below), and safety bodies, such as Kidsafe and Australian Red Cross (in SA, WA) also sell child restraints.

Getting your child restraint fitted
Most modern cars have an anchor point behind the rear seat which a child restraint can be attached to. Child restraints should always be fitted in the rear seat of the car. If you are unsure about how to fit your child restraint, or have any queries about specific fittings, or you would like to have the installation of your restraint professionally checked, contact your local motoring authority for details of approved fitters. Some motoring organisations (RACQ in Qld & RACT in Tas) (contact details in more information section below) and some safety bodies, such as Kidsafe and Australian Red Cross will also check or fit seats. A small charge may be made.

Temporary hire of child restraints
Capsules and seats can be hired on a temporary basis from companies listed on our nursery equipment hire page.

If you are hiring a car, especially when on a family holiday, most car hire companies can also supply a suitable restraint for use in their vehicle. Ensure that you specify the type of restraint required at the time of booking.

You may wish to consider buying:

  • sun shades for car windows
  • mirror to enable you to view your child in a rear-facing capsule from the drivers seat
  • head support for young babies

Retailers of these types of products can found on our sun protection products page or our page featuring travel accessories for the car.

Children being seated in the front passenger seat
There are laws that cover this and it depends on both the age of the child and the vehicle being travelled in.

If the vehicle has only one row of seats (eg a utility):

  • a child regardless of age can sit in the front seat provided they are properly restrained.  If the vehicle has a passenger airbag fitted, a rearward facing child restraint should not be used as engagement of the airbag could cause injury.

If the vehicle has two or more rows of seats:

  • a child under the age of four years cannot sit in the front seat of a vehicle that has more than one row of seats, even if the child is large enough to usually sit properly restrained in a booster seat
  • a child aged between four and seven year of age cannot sit in the front seat of a vehicle that as more than one row of seats, unless all other available passenger seats are occupied by children under the age of seven years.

Travelling in taxis
A child under the age of 7 is safest when travelling in a capsule or child restraint correct for it's age/size. Where possible, it is best if you can supply your own car seat when intending to travel in a taxi to ensure that your child is safe along with being more cost effective. All taxis should have the correct anchor point for fitting the restraint, but it is always advisable to call the taxi company in advance to check.

Taxi companies may be able to provide child restraints if they are given sufficient notice. A surcharge is the norm for the hire of the child seat and you will often have to pay for the taxi to collect the seat from a depot or taxi company's headquarters. Your journey will be metered from the carseat collection point, to wherever you are picked up and then onto your final destination. Check all charges with your taxi company in advance and ensure that you book your vehicle well in advance (at least an hour).

Older children (up to age 7 years) must use a child restraint if one is available. If there isn't one available, the child must wear a properly fastened and adjusted seatbelt.

The rules for travelling in taxis with very young children do vary from state to state within Australia. It is advisable to check with taxi companies when booking and to order a child seat in advance. Customer service desks at airports (both within Australia and internationally) should be able to assist you with booking taxis with childseats if you are not able to pre-book a taxi prior to your arrival.

Notes for overseas visitors
All child restraints used in Australia must comply with current Australian standards - one of the main features of which is the use of a rear strap to an anchor point. Australian child restraint standards are some of the most stringent in the world and most overseas child restraints do not comply with these standards and cannot legally be used in Australia - this includes restraints from countries such as the UK and USA. It is advisable to hire a child restraint in Australia from a reputable hire service (see section above) rather than bringing your own from overseas.

More useful links:


ACT:  Territory and Municipal Services

NSW: Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA)


QLD:  Queensland Transport


SA:    Transport SA


TAS:  RACT    

VIC:   Vic Roads


WA:   Office of Road Safety 

WALGA RoadWise program


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