The law on which car seat to use will change on 1st March. We take a look at the new car seat regulations and what they will mean for parents.
WHAT ARE THE EXISTING RULES?
Current UK law states that all children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first.
Children over 12 or more than 135cm tall must wear a seat belt.
You can choose a child car seat based on your child’s height or weight.
Currently, parents can use backless booster seats for children who weigh 15kg (2st 5lbs) and above – typically aged three and over.
WHAT ARE THE NEW RULES?
Under the new rules, backless booster seats or booster cushions will only be approved for use by children taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg. The new rules mean backless booster seats will no longer be approved for young children.
DO I HAVE TO BUY A NEW SEAT?
The new child car seat regulations only apply to new products. This means that if you’re looking to buy a booster seat after the regulation change, you’ll see that they’re only approved for children over 125cm or 22kg. If you’ve got an existing booster seat you will be able to use it without breaking any rules, but it is recommended that you buy your child a high-backed booster seat which can offer more protection in a side-impact crash situation.
Which? child car seat expert, Lisa Galliers says: “A decent high-backed booster seat provides better protection in a front crash, as they’re designed to guide the adult seat-belt across the child’s body properly, and our crash tests prove they offer much more protection in a side-impact crash than a backless booster seat alone.”
EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW
There are a limited number of exceptions to the law:
In taxis and minicabs (private hire vehicles)
If the licensed taxi or minicab has a fixed partition that separates the front and rear seats: children under three can travel without a child’s car seat or seat belt, but only on a rear seat children aged three or older can travel in a front or rear seat without a child’s car seat if they wear an adult seat belt You must follow the normal rules for using a child car seat or booster seat if the vehicle doesn’t have a fixed partition.
No room for a third child seat in the back
If there’s no room for a third child seat in the back seat (where two occupied child car seats in the rear prevent the fitting of a third child safety seat) a third child under the age of three can’t travel unless they are in the front seat with the correct child seat. Children over three years can either use the front seat with the correct child seat or sit in the back using an adult belt.
Unexpected but necessary journeys over a short distance
If you have an unexpected but necessary journey over a short distance, and you do not have the correct child car seat, a child over three years old can use the adult seat belt. Picking up a friend’s child from school does not count as an unexpected but necessary journey. You must not take children under three in a vehicle without a seat belt or the correct child car seat (except in the back seat of a taxi or minicab).
Vehicles without seat belts
Children under three must be in a child car seat. If there’s no seat belt, they can’t travel. A child aged three or older can travel in a back seat without a car seat and without a seat belt if the vehicle doesn’t have one.