Car safety: 3 - 4 years

Car safety


How big a problem is it?

Motor vehicle traffic crashes (MVTC) are a major cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in children. They were the second-leading cause of fatal injuries between 2011 and 2015 and the third leading cause of non-fatal injuries between 2013 and 2017. Around 75 per cent of child deaths in MVTCs occur when children are vehicle occupants, followed by when they are pedestrians.

Who does it affect?

All children are likely to be injured in MVTCs. Child safety seats and safety belts when installed and used properly, can prevent injuries and save your child’s life. 

Around half of all the non-fatal injuries are when children are occupants. It tends to affect all ages equally, but older kids aged 10-14 years are more likely to be injured or die. Māori children are at least three and a half times more likely to be injured than European children.

Top tips

Child safety seats and safety belts, when installed and used properly, can prevent injuries and save your child’s life. A booster seat has been shown to reduce the risk of injury to a child by almost 60 per cent. To be safe, children need to be in a booster seat in the back seat of a car up until they are 148cm tall. Here's our list of top tips: 

  • For every car ride, secure your child into a properly installed car seat that meets all current NZ Safety Standards.

  • All child restraints must meet an approved standard. This ensures a restraint's design and construction are laboratory tested under crash conditions and provide the best protection when used according to manufacturer's instructions. All approved child restraints display standard markings to show they are approved. Find the approved child restraint markings to look for on this New Zealand Transport Agency page.

  • Use a car seat that is made for their weight and height, and that fits your vehicle. If you’re unsure what you need, you can always talk to an NZTA-certified child restraint technician. 

  • Generally, it’s best to put children in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, or until two years of age. Once they have outgrown this they can go into a forward-facing one. 

  • It’s always safest for car seats to be placed on the back seat. This is because during a crash, a front seat air bag is programmed to go off at a high speed and this can be extremely dangerous for children. 

First Aid

There are also some things you can do straight away:

Fractures First Aid

Keep the injured arm or leg still. If you have someone who knows how to, use a splint to keep it still. You can support the injured arm or leg with a pillow or sling. Raise the arm or leg higher than the heart to help reduce swelling. Your child will need pain relief. If your child does not need an ambulance take them to the nearest hospital Emergency Department.

Brain injury/loss of consciousness First Aid Follow DRS ABCD for start CPR

D Dangers? Check for any dangers to yourself such as electricity or traffic. 

R Responsive? Check responsiveness by calling loudly and shaking the child's arm. 

S Send for help. Dial 111 and confirm an ambulance is on its way. Use the appropriate emergency number in other countries. 

A Airway. Open the airway by moving the head into a neutral position and lifting the chin. Do not tilt the head back too far. 

B Breathing. Look and feel for movement of the lower chest and stomach area. Listen and feel for air coming from the nose or mouth. 

C CPR. If the child is not breathing, start CPR - 30 compressions to 2 breaths. Put the child on a firm surface. Place 2 fingers of one hand (for a baby) or the heel of one hand (for a child) in the centre of the chest just below the nipples. Push down hard and fast 30 times in about 15 seconds (push down one-third of chest depth). Once you have completed 30 compressions (pushes) on the chest, breathe into the baby's mouth 2 times. Seal your lips around the baby's mouth and nose. For a child over 1, you may need to breathe into their mouth and pinch their nose closed. Gently puff into the child until you see their chest rise. Continue with the cycle of 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths until the ambulance arrives. 

D Defibrillator. Attach defibrillator as soon as it is available and follow prompts

The CPR advice is from the KidsHealth website and a page containing the Basic Life Support Flow Chart. The Basic Life Support Flow Chart is developed by the New Zealand Resuscitation Council and Australian Resuscitation Council. For more information see

Links to Safekids’ resources

Child Passenger Safety Resources

Driveway Run Over Resources

Links to other organisations’ resources

New Zealand child car restraint regulations

New Zealand Transport Agency Child Restraint Factsheet

Auckland Transport's Child Safety In Cars page

Plunket's car seat safety information