Campaigns   rights hero default

Safer kids in cars

We support a proposed change to compulsory child-restraint use … but we think it should go further.

×

Choose what’s right for you with confidence

Join today and get instant access to all test results and research.

Join Consumer Now

The NZ Transport Agency has proposed all children under 7 should be restrained in an approved child restraint (currently, only children under 5 have to be restrained).

However, we agree with Plunket: children travelling in cars should be in suitable restraints until their bodies can properly fit into adult seatbelts.

A 7-year-old’s not tall enough to fit a seatbelt designed for an adult – and fatal injuries or serious damage to internal organs are common in crashes where a smaller child is using an adult belt. The lap part of the belt’s designed to sit on an adult’s pelvis; it’s likely to slide off a child’s pelvis and literally cut them in half.

Once they reach 148cm or more, children are a much better fit for an adult seatbelt and the risks reduce dramatically. But children grow at different rates, and 148cm could be reached at any age between around 8 and 12. So the rule should be about height in conjunction with age.

In our submission we agreed the proposed change should be adopted – but with a progressive extension to the age limit for child restraints, raising it to 8 in 2014 and then to 12 by 2018. Once the age limit is raised to 8, there should also be a height limit of 148cm introduced: children would use a child restraint until they reached the age limit or a height of 148cm, whichever comes first.

This doesn’t automatically mean extra costs for a family. Booster seats are readily available and many of these can “grow” with a child from the age of 4 through to 12 (or to a height of 148cm). So a booster seat bought to meet the currently proposed age limit of 7 can easily be the only seat needed.

The proposed new rule allows for exemptions where a child is certified as medically unfit to wear a restraint – for example, after orthopaedic surgery. It also removes the exemption for child restraints in commercial vehicles. We support both these proposals.

More from consumer.org.nz

  • Submissions - download a copy of our submission on the Child Car Seats Amendment Rule