Confusion, Concern and Car Seats – What is the Law?


There has always been a bit of confusion surrounding the law about car seats and car restraints for children and babies. There are so many different types to choose from, parents can become frustrated, picking one that may not necessarily do the job.

Research by Good Egg Safety Clinics found that 54% of car seats were fitted incorrectly, leading to some children being seriously injured.

The Law and Car Seats

Many parents are unaware of their legal duties when driving with their children or other younger children. It's easy to assume based on your child's weight, age or height that they may or may not need a car or booster seat.

As a general rule, the following should be followed so you stay on the right side of the law:

  • All children under 12 and under 135cm in height must use an appropriate child restraint
  • You, the driver, as responsible for making sure children under the age of 14 are wearing seatbelts/using restraints
  • Rear facing baby seats must not be used with an active front air bag - Once new EU rules fully come into force, it will be a legal requirement to keep your child in a seat of this kind until they are 15 months old

Julie Robertson, Partner, Head of Motoring Offences and most importantly, a mother, comments: "Selecting the correct car seat for your little bundle of joy is something that understandably causes many parents anxiety, confusion and concern. With the market offering so many types of car seats and with so many different brands promising the best in protection a parent can be overcome with choice and baffled."

RoSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have a set of 6 useful videos on child car seats showing how important they are for keeping your child safe. Brake, the Road Safety Charity have also provided some useful information on the law in the UK, the different types of child restraint and gives some startling statistics about ill fitted restraints.

Are There Any Exceptions?

The only exception for children under the age of 3, is if they are in the rear of a private hire vehicle (taxis and mini cabs) with no child seat available. The penalty for drivers who drive with their children without a car seat is a fixed fee penalty of £100 or a maximum £500 if the case goes to court.

There are some special exemptions for children aged 3 or over, who do not have a proper seating restraint. On the occasional unexpected journey, made in an emergency over a short distance it will not be an offence for your child to not be strapped into a child car seat. However, an adult seat belt would have to be used instead. Obviously, it will depend on the individual circumstances as to whether you fall within this exception as it is always best to have the right car seat in place from the beginning.

If you own a classic car, you can't carry children under 3 – children over 3 are only allowed to sit in the back seat. This only applies if the car was originally made without seat belts.

If you are struggling to make a car seat choice that's right for you and your child or are unsure how to properly fit a seat once purchased, ask the retailer for advice and assistance. From Julie's experience, she found the right seat for her 20 month old son that was properly adjusted and appropriate for her child.

A £100 fixed fee may not seem like a high price to pay if your child isn't in a car seat, but their lives are worth much more than that.

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