• Children less than 12 years old or under 135cm tall must use a car seat
• Penalties can be up to a £500 fine, as well as points on the driver’s licence
• Exemptions from the law
While using a child seat has been a law in the UK for many years, there is still some confusion around it. Essentially, children under the age of 12 or less than 135cm (4 foot 4 inches) tall must be in a car seat, as this will provide them with greater protection in the event of an accident. There are currently two types of car seat; height-based and weight-based.
Height-based seats are known as ‘i-Size’ seats, and they must be rear-facing until the child is more than 15 months old, when they can have a forward-facing car seat. Only EU-approved height-based child car seats can be used in the UK or when driving in Europe, and these have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘R129’.
Similar to the height-based seats, only EU-approved weight-based child car seats can be used in the UK and Europe, and these have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘ECE R44’.
The child’s weight determines the ‘group’ they are in, which means that the driver can
choose from more than one type of seat in the group for the child’s weight.
The following table has been taken from the UK Government’s website:
|Child’s weight||Group||Seats that can be used|
|0kg to 10kg||0||Lie-flat or ‘lateral’ baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier, or rear-facing baby seat using a harness|
|0kg to 13kg||0+||Rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness|
|9kg to 18kg||1||Rear or forward-facing baby seat using a harness or safety shield|
|15kg to 25kg||2||Rear or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield|
|22kg to 36kg||3||Rear or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield|
With any rear facing car seats, they must not be used in a seat protected by a front air-bag unless the air-bag has been deactivated.
There are exceptions to this law, which depend on the vehicle the child is travelling in and the conditions of the journey.
• If the child is three years old or more and travelling in a taxi, minicab, minibus, coach or van, they must be in the rear seats and wear a seatbelt. If they are younger however, wearing a seatbelt is recommended, but not compulsory.
• Children more than three years old can travel without a car seat if the journey is deemed to be unexpected, necessary or a short distance.
There is a fixed penalty fine of £60 and three penalty points on the driver’s licence for each child not using the correct restraint. However, if the case ends up going to court, this could increase to a maximum fine of £500.
While it’s important for every driver to understand the laws concerning their vehicles, child car seats are an essential safety feature and should therefore be a priority.