Did you know that wearing a safety belt reduces the chance of severe or fatal injury by around 40%?* Whether you are in the front or the back seat, a driver or a passenger, a seat belt can be the difference between life and death.

Over the last 10 years attitudes in New Zealand towards seat belts have changed dramatically. For one it is a legal requirement that everyone in a vehicle must wear a seatbelt. It’s estimated that New Zealanders wear seat belts around 95% of the time. The 5% of people not clicking on are increasing the risk of death or injury in car accidents – it’s estimated that around 30 lives are lost each year that could have been saved if a seat belt was worn. Add to that an average of between 250 and 300 injuries that could have been prevented.

As a driver, when you get in the car you become responsible for your passengers. Adults must wear a seat belt and when it comes to children, it’s up to the adult to ensure the child is properly restrained in an approved car seat or child restraint. A fine of NZ$150 can be issued to all occupants not wearing a seat belt. Children under 15 years old are the responsibility of the driver and the fine is payable by the driver. People over 15 are responsible for their own fine.

For children the legal requirements are as follows:

  • Under 7 years old – Your child must be properly restrained in an appropriate child restraint
  • Aged 7 years old – Your child must be properly restrained by an approved and appropriate child restraint if one is available. If no appropriate child restraint is available, they must use a safety belt
  • Aged 8 to 14 years old – Your child must use a safety belt if available. If not available, the child must be in the back seat
  • Aged 15 years and over – Your teen must wear a safety belt when available.

To find out more about the car seat laws that came into effect on 1 November 2013, and to hire or buy a car seat restraint, check out the Plunket website.

There is no excuse for not wearing a seat belt or using the appropriate car seat or restraints for children. Seat belts and car seats are the most effective and simple form of car safety. They give you the greatest chance of survival in the case of an accident and are the best way to ensure that minor accidents don’t cause major injuries.

* www.transport.govt.nz

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