What are the laws on child safety seats in New Zealand?
Children are too small for adult safety belts and so must be have booster or special car seats for their safety.
Under New Zealand law the driver must make sure that:
- children under seven years of age are restrained in a car seat or approved child restraint
- from the ages of seven, until their eighth birthday, the child uses a booster seat or an approved restraint if one is available; if no restraint is available the child should be restrained by a safety belt or any other available restraint suitable for a child.
- children aged 8 - 14 years wear a safety belt if one is available; otherwise they must sit in the back seat
- any passengers over the age of 14 use safety belts where available.
All child car restraints must meet approved safety standards; look for a label or sticker attached to the restraint mentioning:
- the joint Australia/New Zealand standard AS/NZS 1754 or
- the American standard FMVSS 213 or
- the European standard shown by E3 (or another number depicting the European country).
More information about your legal obligations regarding child restraints, including how to identify the safety standards symbols, is on this NZ Transport Agency factsheet.
In addition to the mandatory safety standards, Plunket has recommendations for the safest way to use child restraints depending on the age and size of the child:
- use a rear-facing restraint (e.g. baby capsule) until the child is at least two years of age
- the child can move to a forward-facing car seat from around the age of two
- move to a booster seat when the child is too big for a car seat e.g.
- their eye level is at the top of the car seat or
- they are over the recommended maximum weight (as noted on the car seat)
The NZ Transport Agency recommends that a child uses an appropriate child restraint or booster seat until they are 148 cm tall or 11 years old.
The Consumer NZ website has information you can use when buying a child car restraint. You can also get help with choosing and fitting a suitable child restraint by contacting your nearest child restraint technician.
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I can’t afford to buy a car seat for my child. Can I hire one from somewhere?
A number of retailers and hire companies will hire out baby and child-related equipment including car seats.
If you are on a low income, you may be able to get financial assistance from Work and Income to help with the cost of hiring child safety gear.
Another option is to buy one second-hand, but it’s generally not recommended as they may not meet current safety standards. You can find advice about choosing a safe second-hand car seat on the NZ Child Restraints website.