UK Child Car Seat Laws, Explained
If you’re unsure about the rules and regulations for child car seats – don’t worry, it’s not just you! A survey* found that 26% of the parents who participated didn’t feel confident about the exact laws for their correct use either.
Before the laws around child car seats changed in 2017, your choice was primarily dependent on the age of your child. However, it has now been deemed safer to base car seat requirements on height and weight. If you were unaware of this, don’t panic! We’ve got the latest facts to help you keep your child safe.
How to find the right car seat for your child
- Select your child’s booster seat using either their height or weight as a guide.
- Your child’s height or weight determines which car seat groups are suitable for them to use.
- Children should use a booster seat until they reach the height of 135cm or the age of 12 (whichever comes first).
- Car seats must be EU-approved to be legal in the UK. For height-based seats they must have an orange label with a circled capital ‘E’ and ‘R129’ or ‘i-size’, and for weight-based seats, they must have an orange label with a circled capital ‘E’ and ‘ECE R44’. Be cautious when purchasing online, as they may be importing from outside the EU, and therefore not legal to use.
Using the car seat
- Instructions must be followed precisely when setting up the seat and attaching it to the car.
- Only use a car seat if you’re able to use a lap and shoulder belt to secure it.
- Ensure that airbags are deactivated if setting up a rear-facing carrier in a passenger seat.
- Do not use car seats inside side-facing seat vehicles.
- If using a taxi (or Uber) and a car seat isn’t available, children are still allowed to travel. Ages under 12 must travel in the rear seat of the car, with ages 3 and over having to use an adult seat belt, and those under the age of 3 being able to travel without.
- If travelling by coach, a car seat isn’t required, although it’s recommended for long journeys that you bring your own.
- If your child is under the age of 3, you cannot bring them on an unexpected journey in a vehicle without an appropriate car seat. However, if a taxi is used, they may sit in the rear seat without a seat belt.
- Those with disabilities must follow the general laws with the exception that they may use a different type of seat belt. In order to legally use an alternative belt for disability purposes, a doctor must approve and sign an exemption certificate.
- If there is no room for a third child seat in the back of the car, those aged over 3 may sit in the back with an adult seat belt. Alternatively, those under 3 years old may sit in the passenger seat with their correct car seat.
Good to know
- If purchasing a used booster seat, you must ensure that it’s less than 6 years old, comes with instructions and has never been in a car accident to be safe.
- Head support accessories are not safe to use with children’s car seats. All car seats come with built-in head support, which should be enough for your child.
- Bulky clothing can prevent securing your child safely. It’s recommended to remove any thick layers such as coats while in transit.
- When selecting a high back booster, look for ones with deep protective sides, and built-in head support to give your child the highest level of protection should an accident occur.
Car Seat Buying Tips
- When choosing your car seats, consider reading independent reviews from consumer magazines such as ‘Which’; they rate car seats according to their own independent crash tests.
- Some shops, such as John Lewis and Mothercare, let you fit a car seat in your own car before purchasing. They also will show you how to install it correctly before you drive away with it.
*Survey conducted by confused.com