Tony O'Kane | May 28, 2009

AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN under the age of seven will soon be required to use a booster seat or be restrained in a baby capsule when travelling in a car, and will also be prohibited from sitting in the front passenger seat of a vehicle.

New laws will be introduced across the country before the end of this year restricting how children travel in cars, with Victoria one of the first states to announce its adoption of the laws.

Victorian Roads Minister Tim Pallas said that the new laws were aimed at improving vehicle safety for young children, and that drivers not complying with the new legislation will risk a hefty $255 fine and the loss of three demerit points.

"This is an obligation that we all must share, it's about protecting our most vulnerable road users and of course those which we value the most - our children," Mr Pallas said in a statement.

"These measures are modest, necessary and they will have a dramatic effect upon the well-being of children travelling in cars."

The new laws will require children under four years of age to be placed in a child restraint with an in-built harness, while babies under six months old must travel in a rear-facing baby capsule. Children between four and seven years old must sit in an approved child restraint or a booster seat.

Children under the age of four will be banned from sitting in the front unless the vehicle has no back seat. Those between the age of four and seven will only be allowed to sit in the front seat if all rear seats are occupied by younger children.

Nearly 300 children under the age of seven being injured or killed on Victorian roads each year, with similar statistics from other Australian states.

The new laws to improve safety for children travelling in cars will be introduced in Victoria in November this year. Other states are expected to follow suit.

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