Car child seat regulations have been through a number of changes recently. 1930 saw the first use of car seats as a tool for parents to monitor their child en route. Laws in the 1960s started to introduce impact protection to child seat design. Safety measures have been ramped up increasingly since then, to the strict legislation we see today.
The main thing parents need to be aware of is the law regarding booster cushions, also know as backless booster car seats. The law regarding these changed in March 2017. It’s now illegal for manufacturers to develop new invented models of these type of seats. Reason being, the full or high-backed child seats have been found to be safer. However don’t panic if you already have or are using a backless style booster cushion. You are lawfully permitted to continue using it for the foreseeable future.
Changes to car seat regulations brought about in 2016 looked at child seat compatibility. Your child is legally required to use a car seat up to the age of 12, or 135cm (4.1ft) in height – whichever they arrive at first. After that, you must ensure they use a seat belt.
You have a choice as to whether you select your child’s car seat based on their height or their weight. In either case, the seat must be EU-approved. You can identify this by an ’E’ in a circle on the label. For height-based seats, look for the E followed by ‘R129’. If you decide to go for a weight-based seat, there will be an E on the label with ‘ECE R44’.
A height-based seat is known as an ‘i-Size’ seat. These have to be rear-facing until your child is 15 months or older (previous regulation advised 9-12 months). After that, a forward-facing car seat is acceptable. When choosing an i-Size seat, check to ensure it’s suitable for your child’s height.
The other option is a weight-based seat. These car booster seats are classified by group, corresponding to your child’s weight.
Up to 10kg: Known as Group 0, these seats allow your baby to lie flat or slanted in a baby carrier. Alternatively, pick a rear-facing booster seat with an integral harness.
Up to 13kg: These Group 0+ seats must be rear-facing, in the form of a baby carrier or baby seat.
9-18kg: Child seats in Group 1 can be rear or forward facing. The seat must incorporate a harness or safety shield.
15-36kg: Groups 2 and 3 are in this weight range. The car seat may be rear or forward-facing. The law says it must be a high-backed booster seat or cushion, used with a seat belt, harness or safety shield.
Exceptions to these car seat regulations involve certain circumstances. If your child is travelling in a minicab or taxi, and a car seat isn’t provided, they are exempt. In this situation, they must travel in the rear seat with a seat belt if over 3 years of age, and without a belt if under 3. Other exclusions include minibuses, coaches and vans, where car seats are not a legal requirement. In this case, if you’d like your child to travel in a car seat, it’ll be up to you to provide one. However if a car seat is provided, it must be used.
There are also rulings for unexpected journeys. If such a journey is necessary and only a short distance, a child of 3 or over is permitted to travel without a car seat. Under 3, and the law does not allow a child to travel under these conditions. You would have to take your young child in the back of a licensed taxi or minicab, without a seat belt.
Perhaps you’re transporting more children under age 3 than your back seat can safely accommodate. A third child would have to make the trip in the front – in the correct car seat. If they’re 3 or over, they can sit happily in the back with an adult seat belt.
When it comes to fitting your child’s car or booster seat, make sure your seat belt has a diagonal strap. You can only ignore this if the seat is specifically designed for use with a lap seat belt, or is fitted using ISOFIX anchor points. UK laws also require you to deactivate any front airbags for use with a rear-facing child seat strapped to the front passenger seat.
Lots of parents are keen to keep up with the changing laws and our guide should help. Don’t get caught out with a car seat that’s incompatible with your child or incorrectly fitted. Parents found to be using a car seat not suitable for their children in terms of age, height and weight may face fines of up to £500.
From speaking with our customers and friends, it seems Police rarely fine parents for using incorrect car seats as there main concern is to help parents travel safely when their children are in the car.
That said, it also appears the new regulations is to get parents thinking and drive behaviour change. To us the law is to encourage parents to use backless boosters for their older children who do not require one.