Vehicle Safety for Children

Children’s car seats have a reputation for being difficult to understand and install, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

We understand the importance of keeping your youngest passengers safe on the road, so we've partnered with child passenger safety advocates SitTight to help make sure everyone has all the information they need to keep children safe in and around vehicles.

 NZ Car Seat Law


NZ Car Seat Law can seem complicated, but it’s quite simple.

  • Any child in New Zealand, up until their 7th birthday, must be in an appropriate child restraint.

  • When a child is 7 years old (between their 7th and 8th birthdays), they must be in an appropriate child restraint if there is one available in the vehicle.

  • Once a child has reached 8 years old, they are no longer required by law to use a child restraint.


Height vs Age


While the law deals in ages, most 7 & 8 year-olds are not tall enough for a vehicle seat belt to properly fit them, and this is when “best practice” comes into play. To improve safety for the child, it is best practice to keep a child in a car seat, i.e. a booster, until they are 148cm tall.  This is the height at which a vehicle seat belt should safely fit across a child’s shoulder and hips as intended.  A child may not reach this height until 10-12 years of age, or older.  In this case, keeping a child in a booster until they reach this age is considered best practice.

Watch this video of Danielle Beh from SitTight, explaining more about the law and best practice for using car seats.

For full legislation, you can read section 7 of the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004  which governs how children in New Zealand are transported in vehicles.


Using a Car Seat Correctly


Using a child restraint correctly plays a vital role in keeping your children safe in your vehicle.  To do so, you must use a car seat in line with its manufacturer’s instructions.

Your car seat’s instruction manual will give you all you need to know to be sure you are using it safely, and in a way that offers your child the most protection possible. 

Among other things, a restraint’s manual will tell you what weight and/or height and/or aged child can use it safely, as well as all sorts of other information which detail how it should be set up and used correctly.  You must follow these instructions to make sure your car seat is installed and used as it has been designed.

If you have any questions about your car seat, and whether you are using it correctly, you can contact SitTight, or your local child restraint technician, who will be able to guide you.


Car Seat Safety Standards


Child restraints sold and used in New Zealand must be manufactured to certain safety standards to comply with our law.  The four safety standards approved for use in New Zealand are:

  • The Australian standard (AS/NZS 1754)
  • The European standard (ECE R44 & R129)
  • The US standard (FMVSS 213) - It is important to be aware that only some restraints manufactured to the US standard are compliant for use here.
  • The Japanese standard - this standard is only approved for use in New Zealand with in-built child restraints in vehicles.

You’ll find more detailed information on safety standards and whether your seat is approved for use in New Zealand, in this article by SitTight.


Safety in Driveways 


One in 5 child pedestrian deaths or injuries occur in the family’s own driveway.

Children are four times more at risk of getting hurt by vehicles in driveways that are not separated from the house by a fence. Other risk factors include shared driveways, driveways that exit onto a less busy road or cul-de-sac, properties with additional parking areas and driveways longer than 12m.

Extreme care should be taken in driveways where children may be playing. Most of the children who are killed or injured are toddlers around 2 years of age. All vehicles have blind zones where small children cannot be seen.

Keep children safe and secure, well away from driveways.

  • Fence off the driveway from the house or play area — particularly if the driveway is shared.
  • Always check around the vehicle before getting in.
  • Know where children are before you start the vehicle.


The Importance of a Secure Car Seat Installation


Is your child’s car seat installed securely?

One of the main jobs a car seat has to do is reduce the movement of a child in a crash.  It needs to stop the child from moving as quickly and as safely as possible. 

A crash at 50km/h creates the same force as if you fell out of the third floor of a building.

If you can move a car seat with your hand, imagine what the force of a crash would do to it.  It must be secure.


How can you check?

There’s a simple test to do to be sure a child restraint is secure.  Hold it next to where it’s connected to the vehicle and pull it side to side.  Does it move more than 2.5cm?

If the answer is yes, it’s not securely installed.

Using the “2.5cm rule” gives you a simple, precise measurement to use.  This is not a lot of movement so, don’t be surprised if you find your car seat is not secure enough.  Over 80% of car seats in New Zealand are not installed securely.

It’s not uncommon to have trouble getting a car seat secure.  Your instruction manual should guide you as to how to install your child restraint securely but if this is not clear and you need help doing so, make contact with your local child restraint technician who can offer knowledge, support and expertise. 


Back Seat is Best


Why is the back seat the safest position for a child to travel?

When deciding where a child should sit, it makes the most sense to seat them away from the areas of the vehicle that are most likely to be impacted in a crash. 

Statistics, and common sense, tell us that frontal crashes are one of the most common types of collision.  Therefore, seating a child in the back keeps them away from this point of danger and reduces their risk of injury.  Frontal airbags also add a significant risk to children travelling in the front seat.

If we follow this logic even further, it leads to the centre back seat being the position which is farthest from any crash point on the vehicle.  For this reason, the centre rear seat is often considered the “safest” place in a vehicle.  When installing child restraints, it’s important to know that there are often reasons why these can’t be installed in the centre back seat.  If you plan to install your child restraint in this position, check the restraint’s instruction manual to make sure you can do so in line with its manufacturer’s instructions, and your vehicle manual to check any guidelines or rules regarding child restraint installation.

When seating a child, or installing a child restraint, keep in mind how close your smallest passengers are to parts of the vehicle which, in a crash, are most often hit.  By seating them away from these areas, you are helping to give them the most protection you can.  


Get in the draw for a chance to WIN a Britax One4Life ClickTight all-in-one car seat!


We’re excited to announce that thanks to our friends at SitTight, we have a Britax One4Life ClickTight all-in-one car seat worth $899 to give away to one lucky AA Member.

One4Life takes your child from birth to big kid with Britax Safety and ClickTight installation.  It easily converts from a rear-facing infant car seat, to a forward-facing 5-point harness seat, to a high-back belt-positioning booster seat.

For your chance to WIN, simply complete this sentence:  “When children are travelling, _ _ _ _ seat is best.”  Email your answer to us at [email protected] by 12pm, Monday 31 August 2020 and you’re in the draw. Click here for the full terms & conditions.