Baby being fastened in child car seat
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A guide to child car seats

No doubt your child is the most important person in the world to you, whether you’re counting down the days to your due date or they’re about to blow out their candles on their tenth birthday. 

It’s imperative that you keep them safe every time they’re in a car and this means knowing the current car seat legislation inside out[1]. However, the reality is that many British parents and guardians don’t understand the law clearly. If you’re left scratching your head, read on to find out more. 

Does my child need a car seat?

All children from newborns to 12 years old, or those shorter than 135cm in height, must have a car seat. The child car seat you choose must be the right size/type for your child. Too big or too small and it won’t give them adequate protection.

A study by Safeseats4kids[2] showed that the risk of injury reduced by 82% when a child car seat was used, and that there is a 28% lower risk of death compared with using a regular seatbelt alone.

Which car seat should I choose?

The child car seat you pick should be based on your child’s height or weight. You should never use a car seat that’s been involved in a crash, even if it looks completely fine, as there could be hidden defects. 

Height-based seats (or i-Size seats)

This type of car seat must be rear-facing until your baby is over 15 months old. You can then change its position so that it’s forward facing. When you buy a height-based car seat in the UK, it will have a label with a capital E in a circle and R129. This will ensure that it’s been approved under EU regulations. 

Weight-based seats

To opt for this type of car seat you must know how much your child weighs. You should never guess. Depending on your child’s weight, you might have more than one option when it comes to which seat to get. 

Group

Child’s weight

Seats

0

0kg to 10kg

Lie-flat or ‘lateral’ baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier, or rear-facing baby seat using a harness

0+

0kg to 13kg

Rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness

1

9kg to 18kg

Rear- or forward-facing baby seat using a harness or safety shield

2

15kg to 25kg

Rear- or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield

3

22kg to 36kg

Rear- or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield

Table information from: https://www.gov.uk/child-car-seats-the-rules 

When you buy a weight-based car seat in the UK, it will have a label with a capital E in a circle and ECE R44. This will ensure that it’s been approved as per EU regulation. 

Fitting your child car seat

Whichever seat you choose – height-based or weight-based – make sure that you fit it correctly. It’s thought that as many as 3 in 4 child car seats aren’t[3]

You should follow the instruction manual provided by the car seat’s manufacturer. If you have lost the manual or are unsure whether you have done it correctly, you should visit the child car seats website. You simply select the make and model of your car seat and a YouTube clip will demonstrate exactly how it should be fitted. 

If you’re fitting the child car seat to the front passenger seat, make sure that you’ve deactivated the air bag. You should also never fit a child car seat using a lap belt unless it has been specifically designed for this.

There are penalties[4] for driving with a child who isn’t properly secured. Ultimately, you are putting them in danger, so you’ll receive a £100 fixed penalty notice on the spot. If you’re taken to court, you could have to pay up to £500. 

Car seat exemptions[5]

There are some situations where you can have a child in a vehicle without a car seat. 

If the child is over the age of 3, they can use an adult belt if no child car seat is available, so long as: 

  • They’re on an unexpected or necessary journey for a short distance.
  • They’re sat on one of the rear seats in a taxi or privately hired car.
  • There are already two children in car seats on the rear seats, a third seat won’t fit and the front passenger seat is taken.
  • The car they’re travelling in was not manufactured to have seatbelts.

If the child is under the age of 3, they must travel with the correct child car seat unless both of the following apply: 

  • They’re sat in a taxi, minicab or privately hired car.
  • The child travels on a rear seat without a seat belt.
     

If there is a medical reason why your child can’t use a child car seat, you must ensure that you have an exemption certificate issued by a doctor. 

For more information, please check out the Gov.uk website > 

 

[1] As of 3/8/2018
[2] https://safeseats4kids.aaa.com/car-seat-guide/
[3] https://safeseats4kids.aaa.com/car-seat-guide/
[4] https://metro.co.uk/2017/02/28/new-car-seat-laws-mean-you-could-be-fined-500-6477924/
[5] https://www.gov.uk/child-car-seats-the-rules/when-a-child-can-travel-without-a-car-seat