Child car seats now compulsory till age 7

BUCKLING UP: Dierdre Johnstone has another two years of strapping in her son, Thane, and friend Max Broadbridge, left, both 5, with child restraints under new rules from today.
BUCKLING UP: Dierdre Johnstone has another two years of strapping in her son, Thane, and friend Max Broadbridge, left, both 5, with child restraints under new rules from today.

Parents will have to endure two more years of wrestling children into the "baby seat" when changes to car restraint laws come into force today.

All children will now need to use an approved child restraint in vehicles until their seventh birthday and 7-year-olds will also be required to use a booster or car seat if one is available. Previously, children aged between 5 and 7 were required to use a restraint only if the vehicle had a seat or cushion.

But parents who miss the introduction date won't be facing infringement fees of $150 from police just yet. A police spokesperson said officers would use their discretion while the new law was being introduced, with a strong focus on education.

"However, there will be no tolerance for people who put children's lives at risk by wilfully ignoring the law or failing to restrain a child where restraints are available."

Plunket's car-seat hire service had received a lot of interest from parents getting restraints for their 5 and 6-year-olds in the past few weeks, Wellington service manager Sue Trueman said.

"I'm still coming across people who weren't aware but on the whole there's a reasonable awareness."

Plunket still had restraints for purchase and hire for those leaving it till the last minute, though was "starting to run low".

Safekids Aotearoa advocated for the extension, which should reduce the number of children killed on the road, though saw it only as a "first step", director Ann Weaver said.

North America and Europe based their car restraint laws on children's heights, many requiring children shorter than 150 centimetres to use a booster. "This is actually a height issue . . . A child is not safe in a car seatbelt until they are at least 148cm tall," Ms Weaver said.

Johnsonville mum Dierdre Johnstone used height as a basis for her decisions to use booster seats for all three of her children - Reeve, 4, Thane, 5, and even Maya, 7.

"I don't want my kids in a five-point harness but it's just about height. The seatbelts still just don't really fit Maya."

The Dominion Post