Car seat law confusion – here’s everything you need to know about child seats
Almost half of parents say that they are baffled by the current laws on child car seats.
Research has found that 42 per cent of mums and dads feel ill-informed on the various regulations and what they mean for their children’s safety.
Two-fifths also feel that there isn’t enough information on how to safely fit a car seat and another two-fifths struggle to even select the correct one for their child.
With various changes to regulations over the last few years, the age at which children no longer need a seat is the number one sticking point, catching out a fifth of parents but the different car seat groupings and the i-size system also cause confusion.
The lack of clarity means 81 per cent of those questioned by Co-op Insurance want information on car seat laws to be more widely available.
Nick Ansley, head of motor insurance at Co-op said: “Parents of children all ages are clearly confused by how to best keep their children safe in the car. We not only want to bring attention to this, but want to help parents become better informed and equipped to be the safest they can be on the road.
“That’s why, along with naming the safest used car for parents we have created a handy guide for parents to use when purchasing a car, with a whole section dedicated to car seats.”
With confusion so common here is our guide to the current laws:
What is the current law?
Part of the confusion around the use of child seats comes about as a result of changes that were introduced in 2016 and 2017, many of which are complex and poorly understood as a consequence.
Booster seats, or child seats in one form or another, are compulsory until your child is 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first.
If you choose to base your car seat choice on the child’s height you must also use a rear-facing child seat with an integral harness until your child is over 15 months old.
If you prefer to base your decisions on the child’s weight, you will need to use a rear-facing child seat with built-in harness until the child weighs 13kg or more. After that you can use a front- or rear-facing child seat until they are 18kg, although they must still be restrained within that seat using an integral harness or a safety shield that better spreads the load if you’re using a three-point seat belt.
From that weight onward the child can use a high-backed booster seat or a booster cushion. Since last year the sale of new booster cushions without a back has been illegal but you can still use them legally.
How do I know if a new seat is approved?
All new child safety seats that are EU-approved will have a label on them with the capital ‘E’ symbol. Height-based i-Size child seats will also be marked with a ‘R129’ label, while weight-based seats will have the ‘E’ marking plus a label that says ‘ECE R44’.
How do I fit it in my car?
All child seats should be fixed in place by using a three-point seat belt unless they are designed to be installed using your car’s ISOFIX anchor points.
If your car is not wide enough to fit three child seats across the back seat then the third must be fitted in the front of the vehicle: every child under the age of three years must travel in an appropriate child seat.
What about airbags?
You must turn the passenger’s side airbag off if you are carrying a baby in the front of your car in a rear-facing child seat. If you are carrying older children in a front-facing child seat, then the airbag should be left on but you should slide the passenger seat backwards to at least the mid-point.
Can I still use my old booster or child seat?
Yes, the new law is not retrospective and existing owners will still be able to use their old booster seats. However tests have shown that booster seats without backs are less safe for your child.
Are there any exceptions to the new law?
Yes, you don’t have to use a booster or child seat if your child is travelling in a registered taxi or minicab. However, they must travel in the back of the car and wear a seat belt if they’re aged three years and older. Children under three should not wear a seat belt.
The same exemptions apply to minibuses, buses, and coaches.
What about emergencies?
Children aged three years and older can travel using only a seat belt in an emergency providing the journey is necessary, unexpected, and only over a short distance.
Younger children aged under three years are allowed to travel on the back seat of a licensed taxi or minicab without a child seat or seat belt under the same circumstances.
However, you need to be aware that the exemption does not apply to private cars, only taxis and minicabs.
What about classic cars?
Children aged under three must travel in a child seat; if there is no seat belt to hold it in then they cannot travel in that vehicle. This includes older classic cars that might not ever have been fitted with them.
Children aged three and older can travel in the back of the car without using a child seat or seat belt if no seat belts are fitted.
Nor can you use a booster seat in a side-facing seat, like those found in the back of older Land Rovers.