Child Seat Laws

It is important that children do not use an adult seat belt until they are old enough to do so; they are proportioned differently and their key organs are in different places. Adult seat belts are designed for people over 150 cm (approx 5 feet) in height and with a fully developed bone structure. Child seats and boosters put children in the right position to benefit from the adult seat belt properly.

In September 2006, a number of new laws regarding the use of child restraints in vehicles were brought into place in the UK. These new laws ensure that all children under the age of 12 use an appropriate restraint when travelling in a car.

Children Aged 3 or less

Children must use the correct restraint whether they are sitting in the front or back seat.

However, if you are travelling in a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle that does not have a child restraint, then the child may travel unrestrained in the rear. However, this should only be done as a last resort, and every effort should be made to ensure a child seat is available.

Children Aged 3 -11

Children who are 3 years and older, either up to the age of 12, or up to a height of 1.35 m (whichever is reached first) must use the correct child restraint both in the back or front seat. These restraints include:

As a driver, it is your responsibilty to ensure that any child in your car is wearing the correct child restraint; failure to do so may result in a fine of up to £500.

In these cases, the child must wear an adult seatbelt instead. However, if there are no seat belts available, a child aged 3 and over may travel unrestrained in the rear seat.

Although older children may have become used to wearing an adult seat belt without a booster cushion, the new laws state that any child under the age of 12 or smaller than 135 cm in height MUST use a booster seat or cushion. This is because the lap belt element of an adult seat belt needs to go as low as possible over the stomach, and children must be boosted up so the adult belt fits properly. If not, the adult belt will sit too high over the stomach and in a crash there is a risk of damage to internal organs as well as slipping out under the belt.

Children Aged 12 and 13

Once a child reaches the age of 12 or a height of 1.35 m, they may use an adult seat belt either in the back or front seat of the car.

Passengers Aged 14 and over

Anyone aged 14 or over must wear an adult seat belt in the back or front of the car. At 14, passengers are classed as adults and are responsible for ensuring that they are wearing a belt; they may be fined if not.