Child Health Poll on car seat safety

Many Australian children are not travelling in the safest restraint or position of the car, according to new findings from the latest RCH National Child Health Poll, an essential quarterly health survey made possible thanks to your support.

While the majority of parents are complying with the law, the legislation does not reflect expert recommendations for safest car seat choices, meaning parents are unknowingly putting their children at a significantly increased risk of serious injury or death in the event of a crash.

Based on current Australian laws, children can legally travel in an adult seat belt without a booster seat from age seven years. But National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines recommend children remain in a booster seat until at least 145 cm, which for most children is close to 11 years of age.

The RCH poll found two thirds of children (63%) aged seven to 10 years travel in an adult seatbelt without a booster seat, even though the majority of these children are below the recommended height to safely use an adult seatbelt and almost half of children (47%) aged between seven and 12 years travel in the front seat of the car, doubling their risk of being injured in a crash.

Adult seatbelts are designed to safely restrain a person of at least 145 cm in height. Booster seats protect those children who are less than 145 cm tall, by lifting them up so that the seatbelt fits better across their shoulder, chest and hips. Extending booster seat use by older children until they reach a height of at least 145 cm is likely to reduce child death and disability from road traffic crashes.

Poll Director and paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes said “Everyday children aged seven to 12 years old are vulnerable to life-threatening injuries from car crashes due to inadequate use of car restraints and travelling in the front seat of the car.

“It’s critical to measure your child before transitioning them out of a booster seat into an adult seatbelt. Booster seats protect children less than 145 cm in height by lifting them up so that the seatbelt fits better cross the chest and hips. Most children don’t reach 145 cm tall until around 11 years of age,” Dr Rhodes said.

Tips for parents:

  • Before transitioning your child out a booster seat ensure they are 145 cm tall or more. Place a marker on a wall in your home and measure your child
  • If your child thinks they are too grown up for a booster seat, talk to them about why it’s important they remain in one until they reach 145 cm tall
  •  Encourage your child to sit in the back seat of the car until they reach the age of 12 and explain that they are safest in the back

For more findings, or to sign-up to the quarterly newsletter, visit


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