A Guide on the Law on Child Restraints in Vehicles in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

Each year, thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes.

For this reason, the correct use of car seats is essential to keep children safe and secure when travelling in a vehicle.

With so many different seats on the market, and an array of precise regulations guiding how exactly children must be safely fastened in an approved child car seat for their age and size, it’s understandable that parents may find the process of choosing the correct seat and carefully restraining their child overwhelming.

But in no way does this mean that regulations guiding properly restraining children should be disregarded – or that parents should get lazy.

 

Dreadful: Canadian Motorist Arrested as Toddler Found Riding on Case of Beer Instead of Booster Seat

In what can clearly be described as bad parenting, this week, a motorist in Canada was arrested after he allegedly used a case of beer as a car booster seat for a two-year-old child.

The 22-year-old man was driving near North Perth, about 100 miles west of Toronto when police from the Ontario Provincial Police West Region were notified by another driver who called making a traffic complaint.

Police pulled over the man and at once noticed the toddler sitting on a 30-can case of beer in the passenger seat.

Authorities believe the driver utilised the case of beer in place of a booster seat.

The toddler was strapped in and riding on the case which was unopened.

 

Man Charged with Failing to Ensure Child Properly Restrained

Evidently, the driver’s creative attempt to fashion a makeshift child booster seat earned him more than just a wag of the finger.

The man, who was not identified by name, was charged with failing to ensure a child was properly restrained.

The Ontario Provincial Police tweeted a photo of the case of beer in the passenger seat, outlining the charge to the driver.

The police also notified child services.

In Ontario, children under 40 pounds (approximately 18kg) are required by law to be in a child seat.

Children under 8 years of age, 80 pounds (approximately 36kg) or 4 feet 9 inches tall must be in a booster seat.

 

What NSW Regulations say about Seat Belts and Child Restraints

As the Centre for Road Safety advises, in NSW, all children must be safely fastened in the correct child car seat for their age and size.

A child who is properly secured in an approved child car seat is less likely to be injured or killed in a car crash than one who is not.

National child restraint laws advise:

  • Children up to the age of six months must be secured in an approved rearward facing restraint.
  • Children aged from six months old but under four years old must be secured in either a rear or forward-facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness.
  • Children under four years old cannot travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows.
  • Children aged from four years old but under 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 old but under 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 aged from seven years old but under 16 years old who are too small to be restrained by a seatbelt properly adjusted and fastened are strongly recommended to use an approved 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.

Further to this, it is advised that 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 Law on Ensuring Children are Properly Restrained in Vehicles in NSW

In NSW, the law on ensuring children are properly restrained in vehicles falls under rule 266 Road Rules 2014 (NSW) which addresses the regulation of wearing of seatbelts by passengers under 16 years old.

For a child under the age of 6-months, must be restrained in a suitable and properly fastened and adjusted rearward facing approved child restraint. Breach of this rule attracts a fine of up to $2,200 in court.

For a child who is 6-months or older, but under the age of 4-years must be restrained in a suitable and properly fastened and adjusted rearward facing approved child restraint or forward-facing approved child restraint that has an inbuilt harness to it. Breach of this rule attracts a fine of up to $2,200 fine in court.

For a child who is aged at least 4, but under 7-years, must be:

  • Restrained in a suitable and properly fastened and adjusted forward facing approved child restraint that has an inbuilt harness to it; or
  • Put on a properly positioned approved booster seat, restrained by a suitable lap and sash type approved seatbelt (which is properly adjusted and fastened) or by a suitable approved child safety harness that is properly fastened and adjusted; or
  • If the child is seated in a seating position in an area of the motor vehicle that is designed primarily for carrying goods, the child must be restrained by a suitable lap and sash style seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened, or has the hip restrained by a suitable lap type seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened, and has the upper body retrained by an approved child safety harness that’s properly adjusted and fastened.

Breaching this rule attracts a fine of up to $2,200 in court.

However, for a child who is at least the age of 7, but under 16, must be properly positions on an approved booster seat, and restrained by a seatbelt that’s properly adjusted and fastened, or occupy a seating position fitted with a suitable approved seatbelt worn in such a way that’s properly adjusted and fastened. Breach of this rule attracts a fine of up to $2,200 in court.

In respect to a child aged up to 7, the above rules do not apply if:

  • There is a medical certificate expressing that the child shouldn’t be restrained in the way required by the law due to a medical condition or disability.
  • This exception to the rules applies only if the child is at least properly restrained in a restraint designed for and suitable for the use by the child, and if the driver of the vehicle is otherwise complying with the conditions outlined in that medical certificate.

Click here for an outline on the law, penalties and requirements for seatbelts for child passengers in taxi’s in NSW.

The above seatbelt offences relating to children are all penalty notice offences. This means that each of them will normally attract an on-the-spot $344 fine by police with 3 demerit points.

If you refuse to pay the fine, wish to avoid the demerit points or dispute the allegation, you can court-elect the penalty notice.

Upon court-electing the penalty notice, you will be required to appear before the Local Court Magistrate where you must either plead guilty or not guilty.

You will avoid the demerit points, fine, and traffic conviction for any of the above offences if the Magistrate imposes a non-conviction penalty as a sentence where you plead guilty, or where you are found ‘not guilty’ after pleading ‘not guilty’ in court.

A non-conviction penalty includes either a Conditional Release Order without conviction or a section 10 dismissal.

If you intend on representing yourself in court for a traffic offence, you should be well prepared and at least receive some experienced advice from a traffic lawyer beforehand.

 

Making the Safest Choice to Ensuring your Child’s Seat is Fitted Correctly

To ensure your child’s seat is fitted correctly in your vehicle, you can turn to the Child Car Seats website, which lets you quickly find and compare more than 200 types of forward facing, rear facing and booster seats.

You can also find details outlining how the seats are tested and rated. The site has information on how to use seats correctly and check if they are still safe.

You should also follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when fitting child car seats. Instructions for these can also be found online.

Finally, to ensure correct and safe installation of your child car seat, contact an Authorised Restraint Fitting Station.

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