What are the laws on child restraints in taxis?
by Sharyn Roberts
If you are planning to catch a taxi and you have children with you - what do you do? Do you know what the law is regarding child restraints in taxis? In the states and territories of Australia, the laws on child restraints in taxis are predominantly the same as the laws for child restraints in all other vehicles. As a national initiative most states have recently updated their legislation to bring private and taxi vehicle laws into alignment in this respect, and also to bring alignment nationally.
Children up to 12 months
Children under 6 months must be in a rearward facing restraint and children 6 months or older but less than 12 months must be in either a rearward facing restraint or a forward facing restraint with in-built harness. The same rules apply to all vehicles on the road.
Children 12 months to 16 years
In taxis, children 12 months or older but under 16 years old must be either on a booster seat and use a seat belt, or must use a suitable seat belt. The definition of "suitable restraint" however can differ slightly from state to state. In the main - and because it is impractical for taxis to carry multiple children's seats - standard seatbelt restraints are allowed but must be fitted properly.
Children in the front seat
In general, no child under the age of four years is allowed to sit in the front seat of a taxi under any circumstances. Children between four years and seven years are only permitted to sit in the front seat of a taxi if the rear seats are holding children younger than seven years. All children must be properly restrained by appropriate seatbelts.
Children on laps
This is one of the historically least consistent areas of the law and the most often misunderstood or mistaken by parents and taxi passengers and drivers alike. The recent alignment of vehicle and taxi child restraint laws across Australia has seen the standardisation of legislation on this matter; such that a child must not occupy the same seating position as another passenger regardless of seatbelt use. In short - children may not be carried on laps.
BYO baby seat
Of course many parents will carry their own seats for their infant children and in NSW 10% of the taxi fleet is required by law to carry a baby capsule. When ordering taxis you will - in some areas - be able to request a baby seat; however there is not always a guarantee that you will get one. This aspect seems to be a point of great contention on transport and parenting blogs and websites. It is a passenger's right to fit a baby or booster seat into a taxi for their own use; the driver may not refuse to allow the restraint to be fitted however they are allowed to turn on the taxi metre during this time.
If you need more information on the laws around child restraints in taxis - contact either the Department of Transportation in your state or territory, or your local taxi industry group.