The safety of children has dramatically improved over the years thanks to improved car seat design and the introduction of child car seat laws. When the first car seat was invented in the 1930s it’s aim was purely to keep children contained while the car was moving, safety wasn’t a consideration. Today, with far more faster cars on the roads, car seats are an essential part of keeping children safe during car journeys. Thanks to research and new technologies the safety design of car seats is always improving and the laws become tighter. It can be confusing for parents, especially when the rules differ to the use of car seats for their older children. Read our handy guide on children’s car seats to ensure you are up to date:
Nowadays, it’s hard to believe that it was only in 1983, that front seat belt wearing regulations for drivers and passengers (both adult and children) came into force. It was only in 1989, that wearing rear seat belts became compulsory for children under 14. In 1991, it also became compulsory for adults to wear seat belts in the back of a car.
Children’s Car Seat Laws
In regards to children, wearing a seat belt is not enough. A car seat is essential to ensure they are kept safe in the car.
- Children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first.
- Children over 12 or more than 135cm tall must wear a seat belt.
You can choose a child car seat based on your child’s height or weight. Booster Cushions manufactured from now on can only be approved as group 3.
Fitting a child car seat
You must only use a child car seat if your car’s seat belt has a diagonal strap, unless the seat is either:
- specifically designed for use with a lap seat belt
- fitted using ISOFIX anchor points
You must also:
- deactivate any front airbags before fitting a rear-facing baby seat in a front seat
- not fit a child car seat in side-facing seats
Children with disabilities or medical conditions
The same rules apply for children with disabilities or medical conditions, but they can use a disabled person’s seat belt or a child restraint designed for their needs.
A doctor can issue an exemption certificate if a child is unable to use a restraint or seat belt because of their condition.
But what about when we use a taxi or in a minibus? Where does the law stand then? Read on to find out:
When a child can travel without a car seat
In most cases, children under 3 must always be in a child car seat.
The rules are different if:
- the child is in a taxi or minicab
- the child is in a minibus, coach or van
- the child is on an unexpected journey, for example an emergency
- there’s no room for another car seat
Taxis and minicabs (private hire vehicles)
If the driver doesn’t provide the correct child car seat, children can travel without one – but only if they travel on a rear seat:
- and wear an adult seat belt if they’re 3 or older
- without a seat belt if they’re under 3
Minibuses, coaches and vans
Minibus or coach drivers and companies don’t have to provide child car seats. You must provide your own if you want to make sure a child has one.
Children can travel without a child car seat or seat belt, if they’re not available.
If the correct child car seat isn’t available, a child aged 3 or older can use an adult seat belt if the journey is all of the following:
- over a short distance
You can’t take children under 3 on an unexpected journey in a vehicle without the correct child car seat, unless both of the following apply:
- it’s a licensed taxi or minicab
- the child travels on a rear seat without a seat belt
No room for a third child car seat
Children under 3 must be in a child car seat. If there’s no room for a third child car seat in the back of the vehicle, the child must travel in the front seat with the correct child car seat.
Children aged 3 or older can sit in the back using an adult belt.
*There is also a competition running where you have the chance to win £500 by uploading a tutorial. See more at www.youtube.com .
So there you have it, the latest up to date children’s car seat laws will ensure you give your child the best possible protection in the event of a crash and you’ll also avoid a £500 fine which can be the case if you’re caught using an unsuitable or incorrectly fitted car seat.