Child Restraint and Booster Seat Laws in Queensland

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In a testament to the importance of car seat laws, Queensland has recently raised the bar by introducing a set of new regulations designed to make on-road journeys safer for children. These laws will dictate the type of car seat children of each weight class must use, along with the hefty fines awaiting drivers who break the rules. The inside of a fast-moving vehicle is never going to be risk-free, but choosing an effective car seat option for your child in every phase of their youth will afford them a great deal more protection, and extra peace of mind for you.

Forward versus rear-facing car seats

Having a child restraint installed in your car isn’t necessarily enough to ensure a safe ride for the youngest members of Queensland’s wider community. As the driver responsible, you need to know the difference between the different car seat designs and the relevant age or weight limits, since you will be responsible under the law for ensuring effective safety restraints are used for each child in your car. Content here

Forward-facing car seats are commonly sold and often assumed to be perfectly safe for very young children, but they typically fail to measure up well against the rear-facing alternatives. The biggest benefit of the rear-facing seat design is the reduced impact on a child’s neck in the event of a crash, which ultimately significantly reduces the likelihood of them sustaining a serious injury. Thanks to the front passenger seat, a child in a rear-facing car seat will also be supported from behind in the event of a serious accident, preventing them from falling backwards, whereas a front-facing car seat in the same situation could fall forwards and cause injury.

As such, it is recommended that you seat your child in a rear-facing seat for as long as they are able to fit into it. Once they reach preschool age, they may well be too tall for the rear-facing design, making the transition into a forward-facing seat unavoidable. Don’t worry too much, as these designs still offer considerable safety benefits for young children; the most important thing you can do as a parent is to carefully check and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on your chosen product.

Moving from a booster to a seatbelt (when and how)

Car seat ages can be very helpful guidelines for maximising your children’s safety as they grow; however, while it’s generally accepted that children aged between 4 and 7 years are safe to ride in a booster seat, the only truly accurate measure of the right position for your child is their weight. In other words, the right age for booster seat usage, and any other specific type of restraint will vary according to a child’s physical proportions. Some intro text here.

Toddlers weighing up to 65 pounds are generally safe to ride in a forward-facing convertible car seat and should be moved into a booster seat as soon as they exceed the weight limit for their specific car seat. A booster seat can look quite similar to a car seat and is designed to elevate a child in the car so that the adult seatbelt sits better around them and is safer for them to wear. For the average child, booster-seat age can last five years or longer before they graduate to a seat-free riding phase, so it’s well worth investing in a good quality booster seat.

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For those with a restless toddler, a backless booster seat offers an alternative between a full booster seat and seat-free driving. The design is similar to a second seat bottom which can be strapped into your car just like an ordinary children’s car seat. These are intended to give your child extra height and allow the adult seat restraint to fit better, and they might seem like a natural stage in the transition towards car seat-free driving since they also allow for a little extra freedom. The same age and weight limitations as for a regular booster seat apply to the use of backless design, meaning any child under 4.9 metres tall and over 30 kilograms in weight; however, there have been concerns raised over the years about the comparative safety standards of these alternatives. The problem is that they give significantly less neck and back support than a full booster seat, which could be dangerous or even life-threatening for a child involved in an accident, particularly in a side-on collision.

When you think your child might be ready for a road trip minus the car seat, a few practical checks can help in determining whether they meet physical safety requirements. Firstly, they should be at or above a height of 1.45 metres, which, for most children, happens around the age of 10. Secondly, they must be able to sit with their back flat against the seat, legs bending over the seat edge, and seatbelt running over the middle of their shoulders. If this is a comfortable position for your child, they should be safe in a regular seat, and ready to say goodbye to their child restraint for good. Just remember that being safe in a regular car seat doesn’t mean your child is safe in the front. Even though the law states that children aged 7 and older are legally allowed to sit in the front seat, the fact remains that the back is far safer for any child aged 12 or younger.

Laws and compliance regulations

Since the institution of new child restraint laws, 2019 has been filled with news and discussions around non-compliant devices, warning parents to check standards more carefully. Most child restraint and baby seat laws might seem fairly basic and common sense, but there are also a few clauses which may be foreign to first-time parents or carers, so it’s important to be well aware of any changes or updates. Under Australian law, some car seats produced overseas will fail new safety standards, so be wary of online sellers, and steer clear of models made overseas unless you’re able to confirm that the model you have chosen is in compliance with Queensland regulations. Queensland law also dictates that while a child can ride in a taxi without a car seat, the adult responsible for the child should provide the appropriate restraints. Where restraints are not available, children are permitted to wear an adult restraint, while infants aged under 12 months must be seated in the lap of someone aged 16 or older.

The importance of these laws in keeping children safe on the road cannot be understated, but even so, drivers occasionally fail to properly secure underage passengers. Since one car seat does not fit all, drivers can also be hit with a heavy fine for placing a child in an improperly-secured harness or a car seat made for the wrong age group. Penalties for drivers carrying children in an inappropriate car seat include fines of up to $500 and a loss of three demerit points in all Australian states and territories, as well as the knowledge that your child is less likely to live through an accident.

In the world of car seat safety, Australia has some way to go before our laws and products can be considered on-par with countries like the United States, which only increases the importance of parental vigilance. There’s a lot on the line every time you step into a car, and the best way you can ensure your child’s safety is by driving with the utmost care, staying up to date on relevant car seat laws, and checking seat restraints every time you open the car door. If you can turn each of these practices into a habit, the smallest members of your family will be a whole lot safer on the road.