Mike Stevens | Jul 1, 2010

National child restraint laws are in effect from today, requiring that children from six months to four years-old be secured in a child safety seat, in the rear of the vehicle only.

Children aged four to seven must be seated securely in a forward-facing booster seat or approved child restraint, and may only be seated in the front if all other passenger seating is occupied by children under seven.

The new national laws follow calls from road safety experts and the community for tougher minimum standards in child seating. Around 500 children up to the age of 10 are killed or seriously injured every year in car accidents, with another 2300 sustaining minor injuries.

Research by the Australian Transport Council showed that until now, many children are moved into bigger seats before it is appropriate, increasing the risk of serious injury in an accident.

"Seating kids aged four to seven in a booster seat reduces their risk of injury in a crash by almost 60 per cent, compared to sitting in an adult seatbelt," NSW Roads Minister David Mr Borger said today.

Designed to reduce the risk of injury caused by seat restraints which are unsuitable for the child's weight and height, the new rules specify that If a child is too tall or heavy for their restraint, they should use the restraint required for the next age group.

Conversely, if a child is too small to move into the restraint approved for their age, they must continue to use the restraint designated for the previous-age group.

The new laws come into effect from today, July 1, with penalties in effect from October 1. Drivers will be fined $240 and incur three demerit points if one passenger is not wearing a seatbelt or suitable approved child restraint.

Drivers will be fined $292 and incur five demerit points if more than one passenger is not wearing a seatbelt or suitable approved child restraint.

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