Safety is always of paramount importance in family cars, but the majority of safety systems in modern vehicles are built with adult passengers in mind. Riders of smaller stature fare poorly when seatbelts and other safety devices are too big for them. Thankfully, laws and design standards are in place to ensure that aftermarket booster and child seats and ensure a safe ride for little passengers.
This section covers everything you need to know about safe child seating, including:
Generally, children must use the correct car seat for their weight (rather than age or height) until they reach 135cm tall or 12 years old (whichever comes first). When carrying children as passengers in a vehicle, there are a few things to bear in mind, whatever their weight or age:
Baby car seat safety in particular is of paramount importance and a topic that we explore in further detail in the types of child car seat section.
As with seatbelt legislation, it is a legal requirement that children are using the appropriate child seat for their weight, age or height. Not using a car seat is incredibly irresponsible and puts children’s lives in danger. If you are caught failing to ensure that a child passenger is not using an appropriate child restraint, you could face a fine of up to £500. There are other implications too: any claims against your motor insurance could be affected and you may also face civil proceedings if you fail to safely carry someone else’s child.
The driver of the vehicle is legally responsible to ensure that all child passengers are wearing their seatbelts and using the appropriate seat or child restraint.
If a child is exempt on medical grounds, he or she does not have to use a child restraint. If your child has a disability, it may be that they need to use a seatbelt or child restraint that is specifically designed for their needs. Your doctor will be able to provide more information. It is also not compulsory for a child’s car seat to be provided in minibuses. However, if the vehicle has an unladen weight less than 2.54 tonnes, children aged three and above must use one if it is available. If one is not available, children aged three or above must use an adult seatbelt if it is fitted instead. Children younger than three can travel without a seatbelt, but only in the rear seats of the vehicle.
Other instances where children don’t need to travel with a car seat include:
If there is no room for a three child seats in the back, a child over the age of three can sit in the back using an adult belt, or in the front with the correct child seat. A child under the age of three cannot travel unless they sit in the front with the correct child restraint
For more information about the legalities of using a child car seat, visit Gov.uk
The different types of child car seats and their uses are as follows:
Used for babies up to 13kg
Used for children from 9kg-18kg
Used for children from 15kg-25kg
Used for children over 22kg
Some manufacturers offer adjustable car seats that are designed to be adapted as a child grows. Be sure that you are using the appropriate setup for your child’s weight by following the instructions or checking the label.
Some vehicles are fitted with integrated child-sized seats. If the seat is EU approved, an additional child restraint will not need to be used, providing the child is of the correct weight (check the label or car handbook for confirmation).
If the integrated seat is not EU approved, a child seat will still need to be used in its place. Gov.uk offers more information about the suitability of different types of car seat.
Any child restraint you purchase should come with comprehensive fitting instructions. A poorly fitted car seat will not work effectively and may even endanger your child’s life. A few things to check include:
You can also check out this great video from Mother&Baby:
Most cars made since 2002 are fitted with universal ISOFIX fixtures. This makes securely fitting compatible car seats quick and simple, as you can easily attach the seat at the two or three mounting points. Most vehicles have two ISOFIX points at the base of the seat, but some are also fitted with a third – at the top – for additional security. For more information, take a look at this article from Which.co.uk.
A child car seat can be used in the front seat of a vehicle provided that it fits properly. It is important to remember that before fitting a rear-facing baby seat, any frontal airbags in your vehicle must be deactivated.
The majority of children’s car seats can only be used with a belt that has a diagonal strap and a lap belt (a three point belt). However, if you have an EU approved child restraint that is compatible for using with a lap belt, this is permitted by law. If your vehicle doesn’t have seatbelts (for example, it’s a classic car), a child over the age of three years old can travel in the back without their car seat. Children under three must not travel at all in cars, vans or goods vehicles without a seatbelt or appropriate child restraint.