Yes it is illegal to use an expired car seat in New Zealand because it is not considered an approved child restraint.
How do I know if my car seat is expired?
Car seats will display their date of manufacture on the seat itself, and also in their manual. If you are unsure, you can always check with a Child Restraint Technician or with the car seat's manufacturer.
What happens if I use an expired car seat?
1. You put your child at risk, as the seat is not designed or tested or warranted to work in an accident. Keep in mind that the testing process also updates, so your seat will have potentially been tested to an outdated standard.
2. Fabrics, plastics, harnesses, and other components of the seat will have degraded over time, so things won't work as they should.
3. Your insurer may take issue with you.
If my options are an expired car seat, or no car seat, what should I do?
Before exploring that, ask IS THAT TRUE?
Is it true that you can only travel by car today? You couldn't walk, or take a train?
Is it true that you couldn't borrow a car seat? Or send someone out to buy or hire one?
Is it true that you couldn't leave your child at home with a babysitter or other parent?
My point here is that usually there are more options. Please don't assume it's "better than nothing" because that is not always true. Wouldn't it be better to have done nothing today and to have stayed home, than to have had an accident and found out the real hard way that the car seat wasn't going to perform?
Are there any exceptions where you don't have to use a car seat?
Yes there are quite a few exceptions in New Zealand currently (every country is different, and our own rules may change in the future, I'm writing this at the start of 2021).
A child doesn't have to be seated in an approved child restraint if they're travelling in a:
vintage vehicle (first registered before 1955) that is not fitted with safety belts
passenger service vehicle (eg taxi, shuttle, bus) when no appropriate child restraint is available. Still, taxi companies may provide child restraints if you give them 24-hours notice.
However, where a safety belt is available, the child must be restrained, and where an approved child restraint is available, it must be used (where appropriate for the child's age and weight).
In exceptional circumstances a medical practitioner may also provide a certificate to provide exemption from the use of a child restraint for a specified period of time.
These are very specific situations, and are unlikely to apply most of the time.
Have more questions about car seat safety in New Zealand?
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