Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia


National Guidelines for the Safe Restraint of Children Travelling in Motor Vehicles   



Below is a summary of the Guidelines as outlined in the Consumer documents. For a printable copy of the detailed consumer document click here.

Recommendations for keeping children as safe as possible:

These outline the safest practices for children travelling in cars. There are also minimum legal requirements that must be followed, and these are listed below the best practice recommendations.

Children aged 4 years and older


Once a child has outgrown their forward facing child restraint, they should use a booster seat until they are too tall for the booster or can achieve good seatbelt fit as assessed by the '5 step test' (approximately 145-150cm or up to approximately 12 years of age).

  Why this is important:

  In a crash, booster seats reduce the risk of serious injuries to children too small for
  adult seat belts, by positioning the belt where it is safest - over the bony areas of
  the shoulder and pelvis rather than the neck or abdomen. Poor lap belt fit
  increases the risk of abdominal and head injuries. Poor shoulder belt fit increases
  the risk of neck injuries



High back booster seats are preferable to low back booster cushions    Booster seats with high backs and side wings offer greater protection for the child’s
  head in a side impact crash, and keep the seat belt in the correct position, even if a
  child falls asleep
Booster seats should be used with lap-sash seat belts, and the belt must not be worn under the arm or behind the back

  Lap-only belts (and lap-sash belts if the shoulder part of a lap-sash belt is not used
  properly) allow the upper body to be thrown forward in a crash.  The shoulder part
  of the belt restrains the chest, and spreads the crash forces over a larger body
  area reducing injuries to the abdomen, head and spine

The belt path specified by the manufacturer should be followed exactly, and any features designed to position the lap or shoulder belt (e.g. armrests, clips, guides) should always be used.

  The way the belt is routed in a booster seat, and the belt guides (both for the sash
  belt and the lap belt) are designed to hold the seat belt in the safest position to
  minimize injury in a crash. Putting the belt in a different location or not using the
  belt guides means the seat belt cannot do its job properly and can increase the risk
  of injury.
Children should continue to use a booster seat as long as possible, until they can fit properly into an adult seat belt. A good adult seat belt fit is generally not achieved before children are approximately
145-150cm tall, or 11-12 years of age.
  When a child’s legs are too short for the seat base, they slouch down in the seat,
  the lap belt rides up over their abdomen and can sit across their neck. For children
  who still fit in a booster seat, risk of serious injury can be increased up to 3.5 times
  if they don’t use the booster seat because the adult belt doesn’t fit properly. 

  A child gets good seat belt fit if the answer to all the questions in the “5 step test
  is yes.

  Different models of booster seat accommodate children up to different sizes, and
  some can fit children up until they can get good seat belt fit. Parents and carers
  should look for booster seats that will fit their child for as long as possible,
  especially if their child is tall for their age.

Other information: Restraints designed for extended forward facing use with a built-in 6 point harness for use up to approximately 8 years of age are included in the new Australian Standard AS/NZS 1754 (2013). While there is no experience with these restraints yet, they are likely to be an acceptable alternative to the use of a booster seat for children who fit within them. 

Booster seats that are integrated into the vehicle (typically these fold down from the rear seat) are a legally acceptable alternative to an add-on booster seat, but little is known about their safety compared to an
add-on booster seat.

Minimum legal requirement: Children aged between 4 and 7 years must be restrained in an approved forward facing restraint or booster seat that is properly fitted to the vehicle and adjusted to fit the child’s body correctly.


Child safety harness (H-harnesses) 


Child safety harnesses
(H-harnesses) are not recommended. They should only be considered when a child has no other option than to sit in a seating position with a lap-only belt, and should only be used in conjunction with a booster seat that is specifically designed to make sure the harness cannot be pulled up when the child moves forward in a crash

  Why this is important:

  Child safety harnesses allow the lap part of the belt to ride up into a child's
  abdoment and cause serious injury, and research shows they are not as safe as a
  lap-sash seatbelt. Furthermore they are often used incorrectly which further
  magnifies the risk of injury. They should only be considered as a last resort if the
  child cannot use a lap-sash seatbelt, and then only with specific booster seats that
  are designed to make sure the harness cannot slip up into the abdomen when the
  child moves forward in a crash.

For further information:


NHMRC Best Practice Guidelines for the Safe Restraint for Children Travelling in Motor Vehicles

  • National Child Car Restraint Guidelines - Detailed Consumer Document (A4 Booklet)
  • Child Car Restraint Guidelines - A Guide for Parents and Carers (DL Brochure)

    For information on safely restraining children in cars, contact your local Kidsafe state/territory office.
    More details about how these recommendations were developed and the research evidence can be found here