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Seat belt law in New Zealand

Wearing safety belts

seatbelt warning lightThe driver is responsible for ensuring all passengers under 15 years of age wear seat belts. Passengers 15 years of age and over are responsible for putting seat belts on themselves. If you are riding a motorbike, moped or ATV, and some agricultural vehicles then you won’t have seatbelts – this only applies to light and heavy vehicles. All passengers travelling in a vehicle where seat belts are fitted in their seating position must use the seat belts.

There are special provisions for passengers aged 0-7 who must use an approved safety seat – you can read more about the requirements here. Your seat belts must be kept in good condition or your vehicle could be ordered off the road in a roadside inspection, or it might fail its Warrant of Fitness.

Front and back seats in all modern cars are fitted with seatbelts. Some older cars require webbing clamps to improve the effectiveness of the belts. In New Zealand you have to wear a safety belt if your vehicle was fitted with one. All children aged under 7 must use an approved child restraint. Children aged 8-14 must used safety belts if available; if not, they must travel in the back seat. As mentioned above there are scenarios where you don’t have to wear a safety belt. The full list is:

  • If you are delivering newspapers, mail or other goods; servicing the vehicle; reading meters; spraying weeds; performing a job that requires you alight and re-enter the vehicle frequently such as rubbish collection; and you don’t exceed 50kph.
  • If you are a taxi driver plying for hire
  • If you have a certificate from a medical practitioner confirming that it would be impractical or undesireable for medical reasons (you can also apply this exemption to child restraints)
  • If you are reversing and you are physically unable to turn around to see behind you when restrained by a seatbelt
  • If you are an enforcement officer transporting a person who isn’t an enforcement officer where it might be considered impractical or dangerous to wear a seatbelt; or you are executing your work duties.
  • If you can’t operate any of the main controls in the vehicle such as the steering wheel, horn, indicators, brakes and clutch
  • If you are a driver or passenger on a bus, or if the bus has no appropriate child restraints
  • If you are driving a goods service vehicle with an unladen weight of more than 2000kg where there are no seatbelts fitted
  • If you are driving a vehicle first registered before 1 January 1955 where there are no seatbelts fitted

Applying for an exemption can be done with NZTA and costs $27.20. It’s non-refundable whether or not your extension is granted.

Seat belts in motorhomes and campervans

All campervans built on or after 1 October 2003, or vehicles converted to motorhomes after 1 October 2003, must be fitted with safety belts. They must have at least the same number of belts as there are sleeping berths, e.g. if it sleeps 4 there must be at least 4 safety belts. The front driver and passenger must have three-point, dual-sensitive, retractor safety belts. A front middle seat must at least have a lap belt. All rear seats must have at least a lap belt. It’s recommended that seatbelts are upgraded to lap and diagonal if possible unless they are sideways facing in which case they must remain lap belts.

driver training

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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Posted in Advice, Car, Heavy Vehicle, Motorbike, Road Code
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