Child Car Restraint Safety

Child Car Restraint Top Tips

Information about car restraints (car seats) can be technical and confusing so we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Whānau Āwhina Plunket to share 5 tips to help keep tamariki safe when traveling in the car.

Rear-Facing is Safest

It’s safest for all infants and toddlers to ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, or until at least two years. Once they’ve reached the maximum weight and/or height allowed by the manufacturer of their child restraint (car seat), they can go into a forward-facing one.

Wiggle Room

Once a car restraint has been installed it shouldn’t wiggle (or move) more than 2.5cm in any direction. This can be used to help determine if your child’s car restraint has been installed securely. If it moves more than 2.5cm, it means the child restraint (car seat) needs adjusting in order for it to be secured safely. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for installation tips.

The Pinch Test

You can check that your child’s harness straps are tight enough by using the pinch test. To do the pinch test simply try to pinch the straps at about shoulder height ensuring you are pinching with your thumb at the bottom and first finger above.. If you are able to pinch the strap between your fingers, it means the straps are too loose. Readjust and tighten the straps until you are not able to pinch them between your finger and thumb.

Harness Height

You should aim to have the harness of your child restraint in line with the top of your child’s shoulders. But remember to always check your manufacturer's instructions as this can change between different models of child restraints.


Under New Zealand law, all children under seven years of age must use an approved child restraint appropriate for their age and size. But it’s actually much safer for children to remain in a booster seat until they’re 148cm tall regardless of their age. As a reference, many children won’t reach this height until they’re about 12 years of age.

For more information about child restraints and car safety you can visit Whānau Āwhina Plunket and Waka Kotahi’s website.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Kimiyo Yamasaki and Pania Williamson of Whānau Āwhina Plunket who lent their expertise and time to assist and guide us in the creation of this video resource.