Child Seat Laws: Latest Regulations

Quick Facts

The current child seat safety law came into force on 18 September 2006.

What children are affected?

All children under the age of 12 have to use some form of child car seat, unless they are more than 135cm (4ft 5ins) tall.

The Law states the following about seat belt and vehicle restraints:

Injuries to children in an accident can be significantly reduced by using an appropriate or suitable child restraint, such as a child seat or a booster cushion. Seats must be approved to ECE regulation 44.03 or subsequent standards.

In a vehicle where seat belts are fitted, including mini buses, buses, goods vehicles (Inc. vans) and coaches.

Quick Facts

What were the main changes from the previous law, when it comes to carrying children in cars?

Here are four of them:

Up to 2006 children aged between three and 11 were obliged to use the appropriate seat or cushion "if available" - now they have to use one, with only a few exemptions.

Children under 12 and less than 135cm tall may not travel in the front of a car without an appropriate child seat or cushion, under any circumstances.

Children under three may not travel without an appropriate child seat, whether they are in the front or the back, except in the rear of a taxi or private hire car.

It is illegal to use a rear-facing baby seat in a front seat protected by an active airbag.

What else was changed?

Seated bus and coach passengers over the age of 14 must use seat belts where fitted.

Since May 2008, child and baby seats must meet a standard known as UN ECE regulation 44.03, or the higher standard 44.04 - this means they will be marked with an E and the numbers 44.03, or .03

Since May 2009, all passengers in any vehicle have to use an appropriate restraint (baby seat, child seat, booster seat/cushion) or seat belt, where seat belts are fitted.

How can I find out what seat is appropriate for my child?

Weigh your child and ask, or use the following guide:

Baby Seats
up to 13kg (2st 1lb) - a rear-facing baby seat

Child seats
9kg to 18kg (1st 6lb - 2st 12lb) - a forward-facing child seat

Booster Seats
15kg to 25kg (2st 5lb - 3st 13lb) - a booster seat

Booster Cushions
22kg (3st 6lb) or over - a booster cushion, or modern booster seat designed for larger children

Take time to make sure your child seat is fitted correctly and that your child is restrained in their seat properly. Incorrect fitting or restraint could cause serious or fatal injuries.

What will happen if I get caught and I don't have an appropriate Child seat?

The driver of the vehicle is responsible for violations by passengers under the age of 14 (except in taxis with fixed partitions).

Police can impose a 30 fixed penalty, but the maximum fine is 500 if it goes to court.

Why did the rules change?

Government surveys showed three quarters of children were wearing adult seat belts before they're tall enough to do so safely. In other words, the belt could hurt their neck or their internal organs if the car stopped suddenly. Or they could slide underneath it.

The Department for Transport also pointed out that the existing regulations dated from 1993, when rear seat belts were less common, and that the law needed to be brought up to date.

Furthermore, the government had to bring UK laws into compliance with European Union legislation (Directive 2003/20/EC) on the use of seatbelts, which came into force in May 2006.