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CHILD SEATS AND SEATBELT LAW

The rules for carrying children in cars

Make sure you know about child seats and the law

Whether you're a parent, relative, friend or carer, if you carry children in a car you'll need to understand the legal requirements.

With few exceptions, all children under 12 years and under 135cm tall must use an appropriate child restraint when travelling in any car or goods vehicle.

  • All children under 3 years old must use an appropriate child restraint when travelling in any car or goods vehicle (except in the rear of a taxi if a child seat is not available).
  • Children aged 3 or more years old, and up to 135cm (approx 4ft 5in) tall, must use an appropriate child restraint when travelling in cars or goods vehicles fitted with seat belts. A few exceptions are permitted.
  • Rear-facing baby seats mustn't be used in seats with an active front air-bag
  • Since May 2009, if seat belts are provided, you can't carry more people in the rear than there are seats fitted with belts or restraints.
  • Your child seats must be approved to the '03' or later version of Regulation 44, so an approval label with 44.03 or 44.04 is ok but you can't use a seat with 44.02
  • Since April 2015, child seats may also be approved to Regulation 129 (i-Size) LINK TO ARTICLE

As the driver, you’re responsible for seat belt wearing and restraint use by children under 14 years. This is for the safety of everyone in the car, and the penalty for offenders is a £100 fixed penalty notice [LINK TO ARTICLE]

Special exemptions

There’s a special exemption for children over 3 on an occasional journey (unforeseen emergency) over a short distance – so it doesn’t apply to the regular school run. And the child must still use an adult belt and must sit in the rear.

The only exemption for children under 3 is when they travel in the back of a taxi and a child seat’s not available.

Summary table

Person in car Front seat Rear seat
Driver
A seatbelt must be worn, if fitted A seatbelt must be worn, if fitted
Child under 3 years The correct child seat must be used The correct child seat must be used. If travelling by taxi and one is not available, a child may travel unrestrained
Child 3 to 11 years and under 135cm (approx. 4ft 5in) The correct child restraint must be used The correct child restraint must be used where seatbelts are fitted. A child must use an adult belt in the rear if:
  • in a taxi the correct child restraint is not available
  • on a short and occasional trip, the child restraint is not available
  • two occupied chid restraints prevet use of a third
Child 12 or 13 (or younger child over 135cm) A seatbelt must be worn, if fitted A seatbelt must be worn, if fitted
Adult passenger A seatbelt must be worn, if fitted A seatbelt must be worn, if fitted

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