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#03-04A LTH Building

Singapore 159306

Mon-Fri, 9:30am-4:30pm

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Car Seat Laws and Regulations in Singapore

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We support parents in making their children safer. We’d like to do this in a shame-free, judgment-free environment and method. If we can help make travelling safer for your children, then that’s a gold star for us. Many parents (quite rightly!) find local legislation and regulation confusing. We'll help you decipher Singapore's car seat laws and regulations.

What is the law?

The law states that a person below 1.35 metres in height is not allowed to travel in a motor vehicle unless they are properly secured by an approved child restraint appropriate to their height and weight, or a body restraining seat belt when seated on a booster seat cushion or when using a seat with an approved adjustable seat belt.

(For details refer to the Road Traffic Act (Chapter 276) Road Traffic (Motor Vehicles, Wearing of Seat Belts) Rules 2011 S 688/2011)

What does 'approved' mean?

In many countries, only one standard of certification is recognised by the local government as a legal standard for safe travel. Thankfully, Singapore's Traffic Laws have more than one standard of certification from several different specifications approved. This means Singaporeans and travellers to the island have more than one option. So what are they?

The Singapore Traffic Police accept five safety standards*: any child restraint that have been crash tested and received certification from America, Britain, Australia, Europe or Japan.

(For details refer to the Road Traffic Act (Chapter 276) Road Traffic (Motor Vehicles, Wearing of Seat Belts) Rules 2011 S 688/2011)

What does 'appropriate to their height and weight’ mean?

This refers back to the manufacturer’s guidance on the product. The manual for a child restraint can hold a lot of information, so don’t throw it out! ‘Appropriate to their height and weight’ can mean different things from one child restraint to the next. For instance, the Cosco Scenera NEXT has a weight limit of 2.3kg to 18kg, while the mifold has a weight limit of 18kg to 45kg.

How does the law apply to a taxi?

Under the law, taxis are exempt from the laws on car seats. This is due to the law being written in the 70’s. Surprise surprise, taxis are not exempt from the laws of physics and your children are at equal risk of death and injury if they travel without a child restraint. It’s pretty ubiquitous, globally - as an example, Australia and the UK exempts taxis from car seat requirements too. The justification back in the 70’s (that’s when the law was started!) was that “it would not be reasonable or practical for public transport vehicles to carry a number and variety of child seats of different sizes.”

In the 70’s, that was completely true. Child restraints weren’t as portable, practical, efficient or easy to install as the ones we have today. Globally, legislation doesn’t always reflect best practice. There’s a lot of red tape and bureaucracy that goes into law making. There are compromises that have to be made because of lobby groups and different interested parties, and that can sometimes water down legislation. Think about this though - if certain days of the week were exempt from laws against killing people, would you actually commit murder on those days?

Another reason why legislation doesn’t always follow best practice is because it takes a long time to change. Technology always changes faster than the law. It is what it is, and that has made this exception irrelevant. The legal exemption doesn’t absolve parents of their parental responsibility to protect their children and provide safe transport. If you were in a car accident in a taxi and your child was fatally injured, it would be cold, cold solace at night to hug yourself and say, “Well, taxis are exempt!”. Any excuse we might make for ourselves to justify not using a child restraint can only make you feel good before the accident. They never help you after the accident. And with the current uber-portable child restraints on the market that can literally fit in your pocket or handbag, we don't need to use excuses.

Here are our best taxi-friendly products:

For children 4 years and up
Pros: Lightweight (1kg), older children can buckle themselves, folds up to fit in a handbag, buckles up in under 30 seconds, European certified.
Cons: Vehicle must have a lap-and-shoulder seat belt, not legal to use in US, not airline approved.
For children 9-18kg (approx. 9 months to 4 years old)
Pros: Lightweight (3kg), folds up and fits in a carry bag, installs in under 30 seconds, can fit in the basket of larger strollers, European certified.
Cons: Only forward facing, not airline approved, vehicle must have a lap-and-shoulder seat belt, not legal to use in the US.
For children 3 years and up
Pros: Lightweight (700g), child can be wearing it before the taxi arrives, buckles up in under 30 seconds, folds up to fit in a handbag, safest non-car seat available, US certified, airline attachment accessory soon to be approved.
Cons: Vehicle must have a lap-and-shoulder seat belt, not legal to use in Europe.
For children 2.3kg to 18kg (birth to approx. 4 years old)
Pros: Lightweight (3kg), officially compatible with Mountain Buggy Nano stroller, can be ‘hacked’ onto other strollers or carried with a shoulder strap, installs in under 30 seconds, can be used rear facing and forward facing until 18kg, airline approved, can be used with all vehicle seat belts, US certified.
Cons: Some parents consider it bulky, not legal to use in Europe.

How does the law apply to a GrabCar?

GrabCars, under the law, are private hire vehicles and are not exempt from any of the car seat or seat belt requirements under Singapore legislation. So in fact, a child restraint, as per the law, is completely required every single time a passenger under 1.35m travels in a GrabCar.

Some GrabCars are equipped with child restraints, but you need to make sure that you’re choosing the appropriate one. A two-year-old doesn’t meet the manufacturer’s guidelines for using a mifold booster seat for example (it's designed for children aged 4 years and older because, structurally their skeletons are stronger). The law implicitly introduces the guidelines set by the manufacturer as to how it chooses whether the child restraint is appropriate for your child.

Just choosing any child restraint doesn’t necessarily meet the legal requirement - the child restraint that you choose has to be appropriate for your child.

Here are the best products for use in a GrabCar:

For children 4 years and up
Pros: Lightweight (1kg), older children can buckle themselves, folds up to fit in a handbag, buckles up in under 30 seconds, European certified.
Cons: Vehicle must have a lap-and-shoulder seat belt, not legal to use in US, not airline approved.
For children 9-18kg (approx. 9 months to 4 years old)
Pros: Lightweight (3kg), folds up and fits in a carry bag, installs in under 30 seconds, can fit in the basket of larger strollers, European certified.
Cons: Only forward facing, not airline approved, vehicle must have a lap-and-shoulder seat belt, not legal to use in the US.
For children 3 years and up
Pros: Lightweight (700g), child can be wearing it before the taxi arrives, buckles up in under 30 seconds, folds up to fit in a handbag, safest non-car seat available, US certified, airline attachment accessory soon to be approved.
Cons: Vehicle must have a lap-and-shoulder seat belt, not legal to use in Europe.
For children 2.3kg to 18kg (birth to approx. 4 years old)
Pros: Lightweight (3kg), officially compatible with Mountain Buggy Nano stroller, can be ‘hacked’ onto other strollers or carried with a shoulder strap, installs in under 30 seconds, can be used rear facing and forward facing until 18kg, airline approved, can be used with all vehicle seat belts, US certified.
Cons: Some parents consider it bulky, not legal to use in Europe.

How does the law apply to a school bus?

Buses with 15 or fewer passenger seats are under just the same laws as that of cars. That means we're looking for either a car seat, booster seat or approved adjustable seat belt (note that it needs to adjust the seat belt in such a way that both the lap and shoulder section of the seat belt are correctly adjusted for the child's size. The LTA has not yet approved any adjustable seat belts for buses under the law, and most adjustable seat belts that we've seen in action in Singapore only adjust the shoulder belt (rather than the more important lap belt) and they do this by compromising the safety features inherent to the seat belt; bad news all around!).

By law, children don’t require car seats in larger buses. For some even bigger buses (like a coach, for example), by law they don’t even need seat belts. It’s not best practise, of course - but that’s just legislation. It’s always safer to use seat belts and child restraints. Any certified child safety technician would recommend that, knowing the kinds of danger a child could be put through without the use of one.

Here are the best bus-friendly products that you can use:

For children 4 years and up
Pros: Lightweight (1kg), older children can buckle themselves, folds up to fit in a handbag, buckles up in under 30 seconds, European certified.
Cons: Vehicle must have a lap-and-shoulder seat belt, not legal to use in US, not airline approved.
For children 3 years and up
Pros: Lightweight (700g), child can be wearing it before the taxi arrives, buckles up in under 30 seconds, folds up to fit in a handbag, safest non-car seat available, US certified, airline attachment accessory soon to be approved.
Cons: Vehicle must have a lap-and-shoulder seat belt, not legal to use in Europe.
After additional analysis, the RideSafer now has a reduced minimum weight requirement of 9kg for school buses ONLY - where it is usually 15kg - so that smaller three-year olds that don’t currently meet the weight requirement can still use the RideSafer safety vest. This change was brought about because school buses typically have a larger mass and that can absorb some of the crash forces over and above that of a normal passenger vehicle.

How does the law apply to a private car?

It doesn’t matter if you’re in your car or a relative’s/friend’s car. Recently, we’ve heard of children being injured while unrestrained in their parents' friends’ cars, and their reason for not using a child restraint was that although they had one in their car, they didn’t when they hopped into their friends’ car. The law still applies, as does the law of physics and your parental responsibility.

Having your own car opens you up to a lot more options, although you can definitely still use the portable options we've mentioned above. Here are some additional products that you can use with private cars:

For children 9kg to 25kg (approx. 9 months to 10 years old)
Pros: Extended rear facing to 25kg, gives the option to use as a forward facing seat or high backed booster, one of the safest car seats in the world, European certified. 
Cons: Installation can be tricky and time consuming, needs to brace against the seat in front of it.
For children 2 years and up
Pros: Forward facing car seat to 29kg which then converts to a high backed booster seat, airline approved, US certified.
Cons: Top tether is mandatory.

Is age relevant? / Is there an age influence?

Yes and no.

Let's start with no: Under the law, age is not specifically relevant because it just mentions all persons or all passengers under 1.35m. This means that little people, or lower limb amputees that are under 1.35m tall also need a child restraint appropriate to their height and weight, or a doctor’s exemption, even if they’re fully grown adults.

When is age relevant? Where the law is applied, age then becomes relevant. For example, when deciding whether a six-month old should go in a forward or rear facing car seat, age is relevant in giving your child the best chances of survival and injury prevention in a traffic crash. The law, however, did not specifically outline any age requirements.

1.35m is actually taller than people expect. In our experience, parents in Singapore and more broadly in Asia, think that children can stop using their child restraints anywhere from 4 to 7 years old. According to Singapore growth charts, children don’t actually reach 1.35m until somewhere between their 10th to 12th birthday. (This is not to say that the age should replace the 1.35m height requirement either, because each child grows at their own speed. Measure your child’s height to be sure, regardless of their age.)

The law says the height requirement is 1.35m, but as it is with most legislation, it’s not necessarily reflective of best practice for your child. Along with international child safety experts, we recommend your child is kept in a child restraint until 1.45m, or until they meet the 5-step test for being able to use an adult seat belt without a child restraint.

What is the 5-step seat belt test?

Your child needs to meet all five of the requirements in the 5-step seat belt test in order to quality for a graduation out of their child restraint.

Seat belts can be used to safely secure a child in a vehicle when he or she is:

  1. Able to have the seat belt sit on their hips, not their abdomen.
  2. Able to have the seat belt sit on their shoulder, not their neck.
  3. Able to keep his or her knees naturally bent over the edge of the vehicle seat, with their bottom all the way back in the seat and their feet flat on the floor.
  4. Able to sit upright for the entire ride, and not fidget, slouch or slump over. They should also not put their arms under the shoulder belt or behind their back. (This can cause severe injuries in a crash. If the seat belt does not fit properly, a child should use a booster seat.)
  5. Able to have the lap belt sit on the thighs.                                                                              

Gosh this is a lot of information. Can someone help me digest it?

Yes! You can check out our travel friendly car seats and strollers, or contact us for help!

 

*Below are the federal codes for these certification standards:
America: FMVSS 213
Britain: B.S. 3254: Part 2: 1988, B.S. AU 202a: 1988, or B.S. AU 185: 1983
Australia: AS 1754-1975 (including AS 1754.1-1989 Part 1, AS 1754.2-1989 Part 2 and AS 1754.4-1989 Part 4)
Europe: ECE R44
Japan: JIS D0401-1990

We took all reasonable steps to ensure this information was accurate at the time of writing and try to review this on a regular basis to ensure it is still up to date. If you have new information or suggestions as to the content of this blog article, please contact us.