UK law states that children who are under 12 (or less than 135cm tall) must normally use a child seat when travelling in a car. It is the responsibility of the car driver to ensure all children under 14 are correctly restrained.
You will see that the law states children must “normally” use a car seat. There are exceptions to the rule:
- Children under 3 years of age can sit with you in the back seat of a taxi if you don’t have your car seat with you.
- Children over 3 but under 12, who are less than 135cm tall can only travel in the back seat of a car using an adult seat belt in the following circumstances:
- They are in a taxi where a child seat isn’t available
- You need to carry 3 children but there isn’t room for all the car seats in the back of the car. In which case one child, ideally the eldest and tallest can use an adult seat belt.
- They are travelling on short emergency journeys.
However, it is far safer to use a car seat wherever possible.
The seat must conform to the EU regulations and will have a label with an ‘E’ in a circle to show this. The car seat must be suitable for your child’s weight and size and it must be fitted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
You can choose a car seat based on your child’s height or weight.
Weight based car seats
This is the first type of car seat your baby will use. They will need to be in a rear facing car seat until they weigh more than 9kg. However, the latest research states that rear facing is the safest position for a child to be in and rear facing car seats for older children are available.
Height based car seats
These are called i-size car seats and are the European standard for car seats. They came into force in July 2013 but will run alongside the current law until 2018, when the current law will eventually be replaced. They use the Isofix system which reduces the chance of a car seat not being fitted properly. If you choose this sort of car seat your baby will need to be rear facing.
When your child reaches 15kg to 25kg, he can use a child booster seat instead of a baby seat. And once he’s over 22kg, he can use a booster cushion. However, you will have seen in the Media lately about backless booster seats being banned in the UK (new laws coming into force in March 2017) . This isn’t currently the case but the safety of those type of seats is being reviewed.
Fitting the car seat
Fit it according to manufacturer instructions.
You can only use a car seat if your car’s seat belt has a diagonal strap. Unless the car seat uses Isofix fitting points or the seat is designed specifically for use with a lap seat belt.
The government website has some great up to date information.
Finally, if you do not comply and are caught breaking the law, you could face a fine of up to £500.