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Car seats - the law

Useful information on UK child car seat law and how these regulations apply to your baby.
On the 18th September, 2006 the regulations relating to the use of child car seats were updated. They now stipulate that all children must be fitted with appropriate child safety restraints when travelling as a passenger in a vehicle. The Department of Transport estimate that this change in the law to ensure children are provided with suitable car seats will prevent over 2,000 child injuries and fatalities a year.

Prior to this change the emphasis was on using child car restraints if possible as when the old law was passed in 1993 not all cars were fitted with rear seat belts. Although the vast majority of cars are now fitted with rear belts, they are designed for adult use and tailored to protect the proportions of an adult bone structure during a crash. Because of this, the use of a regular seat belt alone does not provide a child with sufficient protection and may result in further damage to internal organs during a crash.

Children Under 3

The new law stipulates that a child under 3 years of age is only able to legally travel as a passenger in a vehicle if a weight-appropriate car seat is available; this applies whether the child travels in the front or back of a car. Additionally, you must never fit a rear facing child restraint in a seat protected by a frontal air bag. You should follow the advice of your vehicle manufacturer as to whether it is safe to use a forward facing child restraint in a seat with an airbag.

The only instance in which a child under the age of 3 is allowed to travel without a weight-appropriate child restraint is in the rear of a licensed taxi or licensed private hire vehicle. However, this should only be in exceptional circumstances.

Child Over 3 and Under 135cm/4'5" (or the age of 12)

When travelling in the front seat of a vehicle, children over the age of 3 and under 135cm/4'5" or the age of 12 (whichever they reach first) must always use a weight-appropriate child restraint. Additionally, where seat belts are fitted in the rear of a vehicle, the correct child car seat must also be used. When seat belts are not fitted in the rear, a child over the age of 3 may travel unrestrained.

If there is not enough room to fit a car seat in the rear of a vehicle due to 2 other occupied child seats being in place, if travelling in a licensed taxi or licensed private hire vehicle or over short distances in exceptional circumstances, a child may wear an adult belt instead.

Child of 12 or 13 and over 135cm/4'5"

Children over 135cm/4'5" in height or aged 12 or 13 must wear a seat belt if one is available; this applies to both frontal and rear seats. It is still the drivers responsibility to ensure that seat belts are worn.

Passengers 14 or over

In both the front and rear of a vehicle seat belts must be worn if they are available, however it is the passengers responsibility to ensure they are fitted correctly.

Penalties

The driver of a vehicle in which a child is travelling is legally responsible for ensuring that the child is provided with the appropriate child safety restraint or is wearing a seat belt (for children over the age of 12).

The law applies to private cars, minibuses, vans and other goods vehicles. If you are found to not be complying with the new child car seat regulations you will be subject to a fixed penalty notice of £30 and if the case goes to court the maximum fine is £500. However, the cost of not fitting a child with an appropriate car seat could be far greater if you are involved in a crash.

For further infomation relating to the new car seat regulations and their application Click Here

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