Making children road safe
Children are unpredictable, energetic and, depending on their age, unaware of potential danger. Children are at risk on the roads because they:
- Are small and can’t see over parked cars
- Can’t be seen easily by drivers
- Are energetic and have trouble stopping at corners
- Have difficulty telling where sounds are coming from and may expect traffic to come from the wrong direction. This is common until the age of 11 or 12
- Have trouble judging the speed of cars reliably
- Tend to focus on what is in front of them
- May behave differently when they are out with other children, forgetting about traffic
- May freeze if they find themselves in the path of a car, rather than jump out of the way
- Require specially fitted restraints which must be altered as they grow.
Children are passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and users of small wheeled vehicles like skateboards. Their road safety skills change over time and they face different dangers at different stages in their development.
All children under seven must wear an approved child restraint that is properly fastened and adjusted when travelling in a car. The type of restraint will depend on the child’s age:
- Under six months: to be restrained in an approved rearward facing child restraint (eg infant capsule)
- From six months to four years: be restrained in either an approved rearward facing child restraint or an approved forward facing child restraint with inbuilt harness (eg child safety seat).
There are also laws about where children can sit in vehicles.
- If a car has two or more rows of seats, then children under four years must not travel in the front seat
- If all seats, other than the front seats, are being used by children under seven years, children between four and six (inclusive) may travel in the front seat, provided they use an approved child restraint or booster seat.
Children between four and seven must be restrained in either an approved forward facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness or an approved booster seat restrained by a correctly adjusted and fastened seatbelt.
Guide to selecting a child restraint
Selecting the appropriate restraint is only the first step in protecting your child. No restraint will work properly or prevent injury if it has not fitted correctly in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions.
When choosing a child restraint, the child’s age is the primary factor in determining the correct restraint to use for your child. The size and weight of your child may however, have an impact on what type of child restraint is appropriate.
The penalty for failing to ensure a child aged less than 16 years wears a child restraint or seat belt as required, is three demerit points and $350 fine. To comply with the child restraint rules you must:
- Know which is the correct child restraint(s) to use
- Ensure that each child passenger is wearing a properly fitted and fastened approved child restraint suitable for their age every time you drive a car.
Play it safe
- An average of 38 child passengers under the age of seven are serious casualties (either fatalities or serious injuries) in Tasmania each year
- Some parents are moving their children into adult seatbelts from about the five-and-a-half but research suggests it is too early and until they are seven years old is illegal
- Children up to seven are at least four times more likely to sustain a head injury in a crash when sitting in an adult seatbelt only
- Seating children aged from four to seven in an appropriate booster seat reduces their risk of injury in a crash by almost 60 per cent, compared to if they were sitting in an adult seatbelt without a booster seat.
Taxi drivers are exempt from the above rules if there is no child restraint in the taxi. However, taxi drivers will be responsible for ensuring a child aged between one and 16 years wears an available seat belt to the best extent possible given the height and weight of the child, if there is no available child restraint. Parents are encouraged to use their own restraints in taxis where possible.