Child restraint rules to tighten
Parents are being advised to exercise common sense as child restraints become mandatory for children aged up to 7.
Under the new rule, children aged up to 7 must be in an appropriate child restraint, and those aged 7 to 8 will be required to use a child restraint if one is available.
The requirements will come into effect within the next year, following consultation.
Now, the law specifies that passengers up to 5 must be restrained in an appropriate child restraint, and those 5 to 8 must use one if it is available.
The move follows the first national survey of restraint use in New Zealand by children aged 5 to 9, carried out in October 2011.
Children in more than 6300 cars were observed at 112 sites during school holidays. In Timaru, 120 cars were observed, with 98 per cent of children in restraints.
Mother of two Mel Scott says she favours the commonsense approach. Ms Scott took her daughter Breanna, 8, out of a booster seat 12 months ago.
"I think it's about where the seatbelt sits in proportion to the child; it's about common sense. I think their height makes a big difference; if we had a small 9-year-old we would use a booster seat.
"There should be a guide because no-one wants to knowingly put their child at risk."
South Canterbury road safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude said new legislation should be the minimum standard.
"The safety recommendation across the board is that we should go by height. The higher you sit the safer the fit."
Children were safer in a child restraint or booster seat until they were 1.48 metres tall, he said.
New Zealand Transport Association spokeswoman Lisa Rossiter said the changes would bring New Zealand into line with other countries. "It will help parents and caregivers keep their children safer by making the requirements clear and simple."
In 2010, 304 children aged 5 to 9 were injured or killed in crashes.
- The Timaru Herald