Safe travels with your pēpi and tamariki this summer

January 5, 2024 9:05 am

With school holidays and summer in full force, you may be gearing up for a whānau road trip. To make sure your family has fun and stays safe this holiday season, we’ve put together this blog full of guidance and helpful reminders for an enjoyable roadie.



Buckle up safely – the right car seats for your children.


Depending on the age and size of your child, you will need the right car seat before you hit the road. Check that you have the right restraints for your child or children, that it’s not past its expiry date, it’s properly installed – including that it’s harnessed in the boot – and make sure the restraint fits with your type of vehicle. The driver of the vehicle is legally responsible for ensuring any child under the age of 7 is properly restrained.


If in doubt, check the manufacturer’s instructions for the child restraints that you have to see what height and weight they’re best suited for. There are also child restraint technicians (CRT) available all over the country who you can call for advice. Below is some guidance on rear-facing child seats, front-facing child seats, and booster seats. For more detailed information, you can check out the Plunket website here.


Rear-facing child seats


Rear-facing child restraints are recommended until your child is at least two years old. Don’t worry if your child’s feet are over the edge of the seat – it’s recommended to keep children in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible.


Rear-facing restraints are safer because they protect an infant’s spine, neck, head and pelvis as these are still developing. Always face the seat towards the back windscreen. These restraints are not suitable to be used in the front seat of a vehicle which has an active airbag.


When installing a rear-facing restraint it should be at around a 40 to 45-degree angle, and check it fits firmly against the seat and doesn’t wobble. If you have any issues installing the seat, the Waka Kotahi NZTA website has videos and further information, or contact a CRT.


Before putting your pēpi into a car seat, remove jackets or bulky layers. In an accident, this means your child will be held securely by the harness in the best position to protect them from injury. For extra warmth, put a blanket over them once secured in the seat.


Forward-facing seats


Ideally forward-facing seats should be used in the backseat of your vehicle, and the best place is the centre of the backseat (provided your seat fits well here). The seat should fit firmly against the back of the seat and not wobble. If your vehicle doesn’t have an anchor point for a tether strap, then one can be fitted by a mechanic.


The harness straps should sit flat and fit snugly against your child. It is a common issue that harnesses are not tight enough, particularly around the hips and thighs, which means your child would not be effectively restrained in the case of an accident.  If there is a chest clip, make sure it sits at the level of your child’s armpits.


Booster seats


A booster seat should still be used in the back seat of your vehicle. Legally, you must use an approved child restraint until your child is 7 years old, although it is recommended you continue to use a booster seat until they can safely fit into a normal vehicle seat and seat belt. Vehicle seat belts are designed to fit someone safely when they are at least 148cm tall, so some children will need to use a booster seat until they are 10-12 years old.


Plunket has developed a five-step test to help decide whether your child still needs to use a booster seat:


  1. Can your child sit right back in the normal car seat?
  2. Do their legs bend comfortably over the edge of the seat?
  3. Does the belt come down over their shoulder, and not against their neck?
  4. Does the lap part of the belt sit across their lap, and not around their stomach?
  5. Can your child stay comfortably seated like this for the entire trip?



Before you head off on your holiday road trip this summer, make sure the child restraints you have are appropriate and fit both your child and your vehicle. If in doubt, check the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific child restraint, or you can contact a CRT.


Stay hydrated.


Make sure you carry enough water in the car so that you and your children stay hydrated for the journey. Plan for several rest stops for nappy changes, breastfeeding and toilet breaks.


 Safe eating in the car.


Avoid snacks like grapes, popcorn, raw carrots, chips and nuts on a car trip as they can be a choking hazard and you may not always be in a position to pull over safely. Stick to soft food or wait until you reach a nice park to have a picnic.


Never leave your children in a vehicle.


Whenever you stop, never leave your children (or pets) in a vehicle without an adult. The summer’s temperature can heat up a car rapidly. You also run the risk of accidentally locking your children in the car.


Make sure you take regular rest breaks.


Driving while drowsy is dangerous. Try and avoid driving late at night or for extended periods. It may make the drive longer, but it’s much better that you all arrive safely.




From the whole team at Helensville Birthing Centre – thanks for all your support this year, Meri Kirihimete and safe travels!




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