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Home / ILS Blog / Safe Vehicle Travel for Children in Australia

Special needs car seats follow a special process

The Statistics

Safe vehicle travel for children follows strict processes in Australia. According to the RAA, nearly 60 child passengers aged 0-16 years are killed or seriously injured each year on South Australian roads. More than a third are aged 0-7 years. A further 365 sustain minor injuries annually. Notably, over 45% of passenger deaths and a quarter of serious injuries in this age group involve children not wearing a restraint at the time of the crash.

Legal Requirements

Under Australian law, children must use a child restraint, car seat, or booster until they can effectively use an adult lap sash seatbelt. Children should be at least 145cm tall to safely sit in a standard car seat with an adult lap sash seatbelt. All car seats sold in Australia must meet the Australian Standards, specifically AS/NZS 1754, covering materials, design, construction, performance, testing, and labelling.

Special Needs Car Seats

While many car seats for children with special needs meet European and North American standards, none have been tested against the Australian standard. To use these seats legally in Australia, parents must follow a strict exemption process.

  1. Check for Australian Standards Tested Car Seats: Parents should first check if any car seats meeting Australian Standards can accommodate their child’s needs. The RAA safety centre in SA is a valuable resource.
  2. GP Letter of Exemption: If no appropriate seat is found, a GP must write a letter of exemption explaining why a standard car seat cannot be used.
  3. Assessment and Certification: A meeting with Vehicle Standards at the Department of Infrastructure & Transport is required to assess the preferred car seat installed in the family car. If the seat passes inspection, a certificate of exemption will be issued. Both the GP letter and the Department’s certification must be carried at all times when transporting the child.

NDIS Considerations

The exemption process runs parallel to the NDIS. To receive funding for a special needs car seat, families must demonstrate that standard car seats do not meet their child’s needs, along with providing the GP’s exemption letter.

Other Car Safety Devices

Other safety devices like specialised harnesses or buckle covers also require the above exemption process. These devices may also be subject to the NDIS Commission’s restrictive practices protocols, necessitating additional procedures before use.

Although the exemption process for special needs car seats is complex and time-consuming, it ensures each child’s safety and compliance with Australian legal requirements.

National Website for Safe Transportation of Children with Disabilities


In an Australian-first, allied health professionals, organisations, and parents now have access to a ‘one stop’ national website of resources for the safe transportation of children with disabilities and medical conditions.

Addressing a Critical Need

Mobility and Accessibility for Children in Australia Ltd (MACA) created to tackle the concerning lack of information that has left many vulnerable children and their families travelling unsafely on our roads.

Survey Insights

MACA Chief Executive Helen Lindner highlighted the stark challenges revealed by a recent survey conducted with Curtin University. The survey found:

  • Over half of caregivers reported that their child had gotten out of their child restraint or seatbelt while driving.
  • More than two-thirds of caregivers had never received information on safely transporting their child.

Ensuring Safety for All

“No family should have to worry about their family’s safety and well-being on any mode of transport. But a lack of accessible information until now has left many vulnerable children and their families travelling unsafely on our roads,” said Ms Lindner.

Safe Vehicle Travel for Children in Australia 2

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