The rules on using child car seats
Proper use of car safety seats helps keep children safe. But, because so many different seats are on the market, parents can find the choice overwhelming.
This month the RAC unveiled their first car seat specially designed for newborns. Designed with leading British car seat manufacturer Cosatto, it has a rearward facing design and accommodates an infant from birth up to 87cm, or approximately 15 months.
An RAC Shop spokesperson said: “We’ve ensured the seat has plenty of features to make life easier for new parents, from the one-hand adjustable headrest, to the UV protection offered by the canopy when the seat is fitted to a compatible pram or pushchair. It’s also backed by an industry-leading four-year guarantee.”
When you’re shopping for car seat for your child, it’s important to be aware of the current legislation and safety guidelines.
UK rules for using a child car seat or booster seat
According to GOV.UK, 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.
Height-based seats are known as ‘i-Size’ seats. They must be rear-facing until your child is over 15 months old. Only EU-approved height-based child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘R129’.
The seat your child can use (and the way they must be restrained in it) depends on their weight. Only EU-approved weight-based child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘ECE R44’.
Seats are grouped into 5 categories:
Group 0 (0kg to 10kg) Lie-flat or ‘lateral’ baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier, or rear-facing baby seat using a harness
Group 0+ (0kg to 13kg) Rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness
Group 1 (9kg to 18kg) Rear or forward-facing baby seat using a harness or safety shield
Group 2 (15kg to 25kg) Rear or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield
Group 3 (22kg to 36kg) Rear or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield
Note: Manufacturers can now only make booster cushions approved as group 3. This won’t affect any existing booster cushions in group 2 and you’ll still be able to use them.
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.
When a child can travel without a car seat
A child aged 3 or older can travel in a back seat without a child car seat and without a seat belt if the vehicle doesn’t have one.
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.
On a coach, children can travel without a child car seat or seat belt, if they’re not available.
On a minibus, all children must travel in rear seats (any seats behind the driver) if a child car seat or an adult seat belt isn’t fitted.
Children aged 3 or older must:
Use a child car seat if there’s one available in a minibus
Use an adult seat belt if child car seats are not fitted or are unsuitable
The rules for vans are the same as for cars.
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
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.
Further information on choosing seats can be found at ChildCarSeats.org.uk: https://www.childcarseats.org.uk/choosing-using/