Most parents unaware of child car seat rules, study finds
The new rule (starting in March) means older children now need booster seats.Unknowing parents will be slapped with a £100 fine.
If you’re planning to drive your car with a baby or toddler onboard, then you will be required to use a child car seat for both legal and safety reasons. Not only that, there are various rules and types of child car seat you need to be aware of, to ensure you don’t get caught out by the law and create the safest environment possible.
In this guide we summarise what you need to know about child car seats.
The law on child car seats
British law states that children are required to use special seats in cars until they are 12 years old or reach 135cm (about 4ft 5in), whichever comes first. However, a lot of safety experts recommend you still use a special seat when a child is under 150cm.
An appropriate child restraint/car seat, according to the law, is one which is EU-approved as indicated by a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle. It must also be compatible with all vehicles it will be used in and suitable for the child’s weight and size. When used it must also at all times be fitted correctly, according to the manufacturer’s official instructions.
The consequences for ignoring these legal requirements, besides possible injuries of course, are that the police can impose on-the-spot fines of £30, or as high as £500 if the case is referred to court.
There are a small number of exceptions to the car seat laws. For instance, in taxis or minicabs, it is acceptable for children under three to travel without a child car seat or seat belt on the back seat. Children over three can travel in taxis using an adult seat belt.
If you have to make an unplanned but essential journey in your car and there’s no child car seat available, then a child over three years old can use an adult seat belt during it. Such journeys should be short though. Also, school runs do not count, and neither do any sort of pre-planned journeys (even if you’re running late).
If you’re planning on driving with three children that require special seats, but it’s not possible to fit three such seats in the back, then you have options. You could put the third child in the front with an appropriate child seat. Alternatively, if the child is over three, they can sit in the back using an adult belt, moving one of the two children using a special seat to the front.