Parents confused by child car seat rules: what are the UK laws?

Danielle Fowler
Freelance Writer
Are you familiar with the UK’s child car seat laws? [Photo: Getty]

A large number of parents are confused by the UK’s car seat laws, a new study has revealed.

Research conducted by Co-op Insurance indicates that two fifths of parents feel ill-informed on the laws surrounding children‘s car seats.

The biggest confusion concerns the maximum age a child must be before they no longer require a seat with 15% of adults struggling to comprehend the rules.

The study also indicates that 12% of parents don’t know if a child needs to be of a certain age or weight before they no longer need a seat. While a further 10% do not know whether or not a child requires a car seat in a taxi or on public transport.

So what are the rules parents need to follow?

The UK laws on child car seats

According to the UK government, children must use a car seat until they are 12-years-old or 135 centimetres tall – whichever comes first.

Once they have outgrown the seat, children are required by law to wear a seatbelt at all times.

Height-based car seats

Height-based car seats are referred to as ‘i-Size’ seats. According to UK laws, they must be rear-facing until the child is over 15-months-old. Then, they may switch to a forward-facing seat.

It is important to check that the car seat is suitable for the height of your child. Only EU-approved child car seats can be used in the UK and will come with a label which depicts a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘R129’.

Weight-based car seats

When choosing a car seat for your child, it’s important to consider their weight.

Only EU-approved weight-based car seats can be used in the UK and these bear a label which has a capital ‘E’ and ‘ECE R44’.

Further information on choosing the correct car seat can be found on Gov.uk.

How to fit a child’s car seat

Parents must only use a child car seat if the car’s seat belt has a diagonal strap unless the seat meets the following criteria:

  • It is specifically designed for use with a lap seat belt
  • It is fitted using ISOFIX anchor points

You must deactivate the car’s front airbags before fitting a rear-facing baby seat in a front seat and must not fit a child car seat in side-facing passenger seats.

Further information on choosing the correct car seat can be found here.

Do children need a car seat on public transport?

According to the UK government, a child aged three or above can travel in the back seat of a vehicle without a car seat if the mode of public transport does not provide one.

In most cases, a child under the age of three must always be fastened in a child car seat unless they are in a taxi, bus or van – and the vehicle does not provide one.

Taxis

If the driver does not provide the correct car seat then children may travel without one as long as they sit on a rear seat. They must wear a seatbelt over the age of three.

Coaches

Coach and minibus drivers are not required to provide children with a car seat so parents must bring their own.

Children over the age of three must wear an adult seatbelt if a car seat is not available and all children must sit in a rear seat.

Can children wear a coat in their car seat?

A recent video by car safety experts Good Egg highlights the potential risks involved with wrapping your children up before fastening their seat belts.

In the clip, a mother demonstrates how a puffer jacket can lead parents to think that the seat belt is securely fastened. But when the coat is taken off, it becomes clear that there there is a dangerous gap between the child and the harness.

The car safety experts advise covering kids in a blanket to keep them warm in the winter months and removing coats to ensure the harness is ‘tight enough that you can just get two fingers between your child and the straps’.


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