New Zealand Car seat Law vs Safety
NZ Law around car seat use is pretty simple – if a child is aged under 7 years old they must be in an approved child restraint. If a child is between 7-8 years old and an approved restraint is available then it must be used. Over this age – no child restraint is legally required.
This is where I have the problem…..
We advertise and educate that you should be in a seat until you are 148cm – and I sure don’t know any 148cm 8 year olds!
I am a parent to a nearly 8 year old, she is still harnessed in her car seat. Do I get looks at school? Nope!
Does she get teased by her friends? Nope!
Do her friends get harnessed in my car? Yep!
Do they complain? Nope!
It’s about education – safety will always win over law for me. And for most parents, when making an informed decision around deciding to use a seat belt booster, or when to go to just a seat belt will generally continue to harness as long as possible. They will also discuss these decisions with their children – making informed children as well. I once had my daughters friend ask why he had to use the “baby seat” when he was with us. I explained to him that it was safer if we crashed, and even though I didn’t plan on crashing I wanted to make sure he was returned home in the same state that I picked him up in! He wanted to know more information and so we discussed race car drivers (a passion of his), and how they are kept safe for if they crash. A whole car ride later and now he happily travels with us and rambles on about race car driving to me whenever he can! Main point of this – children aren’t silly! Explain to them why you are making choices for them around car safety, and what the benefits are. Just like we do with road safety and crossing the road – they understand more than we give them credit for.
When we go up a step in car seats, we go down a step in safety. This has always been the statement that has stayed with me throughout my journey as a parent, and as a Child Restraint Technician. So when we go from rear facing to forward facing we are losing safety features. And definitely when we go from using car seats to just using an adult seat belt we are making a big decision, and a big step down in safety. 5-point harnesses are physically safer, they spread the forces during an accident and therefore create less injury. Seems simple right?
So why doesn’t our law go for best practice?
Great question! And one that I would love to be looked at one day – but for now I will do my best to continue to advocate for best practice and safety, as I know no matter what I will still be endorsing the law and keeping our most previous members of society safe when travelling in vehicles.
For more information on the law I've provided the NZTA link below. Feel free to ask questions as well.