Tow trucks and seatbelts for passengers under 16

Public news

When a tow truck driver attends a scene in order to pick up a damaged vehicle, it is not uncommon for the driver to load passengers in their vehicle in order to transport them back to the place of business residence.

Where one of the passengers is below the age of 16 and particularly where the passenger is in a capsule or other appropriate child safety seat, this can present an issue. It is common for the tow truck driver’s vehicle not to be equipped with an appropriate child seat and anchor points. As such, it is important to understand the legal obligations that will be imposed on the driver and the potential penalties that could apply.

Under the Australian Road Rules (SA) (ARR) a passenger who is over the age of 16 must wear an appropriate seatbelt that is securely adjusted and fastened. This obligation becomes more complex for those below the age of 16.

Section 266 of the ARR regulates the use of restraints for passengers under the age of 16 and sets out the following requirements:

  • For passengers aged less than 6 months:
  • - They must be restrained in a suitable and properly fastened rearward facing child restraint; and

    - They must not be in the front row of seats where the vehicle has 2 or more rows of seats.

  • For passengers aged between 6 months and 4 years old:
  • - They must be restrained in a suitable and properly fastened rearward facing child restraint; or

    - Forward facing approved child restraint that has an inbuilt harness; and

    - They must not be in the front row of seats where the vehicle has 2 or more rows of seats.

  • For passengers aged between 4 years old and 7 years old:
  • - They must be restrained in a suitable and properly fastened forward facing approved child restraint that has an inbuilt harness; or

    - A properly positioned approved booster seat and restrained by either a suitable lap and sash type approved seatbelt that is properly fastened or a safety harness; and

    - They must not be in the front row of seats where the vehicle has 2 or more rows of seats unless all other seats are occupied by passengers who are also less than 7 years old and there is no empty seating position in which they can sit in accordance with the rule.

  • For passengers aged between 7 years old and 16 years old:
  • - They must be restrained in a suitable and properly fastened approved child restraint; or

    - They must occupy a seating position that is fitted with an approved seatbelt that is properly fastened and adjusted.

    An exemption exists for the driver of a tow truck under s 266 (5B) of the ARR where a passenger is below the age of 1 and provided that the vehicle has 2 or more rows of seats and the child is not in the first row of seats.

    Where there is no suitable child harness, a passenger under the age of 1 can be seated in the lap of a passenger who is 16 years or older provided that the vehicle is being towed as it is necessary to do so due to the vehicle having broken down or involved in a crash.

    For those younger passengers who are above the age of 1 but less than 7 year old the only exemption is for drivers of a public minibus or taxi where there is no suitable approved child restraint available and the vehicle has 2 or more rows of seats. In this instance the passenger must be wearing an approved seatbelt that is adjusted and fastened to the best extent possible.

    The failure to comply with the above rules could attract a penalty as set out in the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous) Regulations 2014. The penalty amount would be:

    • For failure in relation to 1 such passenger $363,
    • failure in relation to more than 1 such passenger $428

    Where possible the driver of a tow truck should have child seat anchor points in their vehicle. If it is not possible to have child seat anchor points in the vehicle you must either comply with the exemption for passengers below the age of 1 or look for alternate transport options for passengers.

    If you have any enquiries relating to the above or any other issues about obligations for passengers in a vehicle please contact the MTA on (08) 8291 2000 or email the Workplace Relations team by clicking here.