Child seats and the law

The rules about carrying children in cars

Child safety law - the rules about carrying children in cars

Child safety law - the rules about carrying children in cars

Whether you are a parent, relative, friend or carer, if you carry children in a car it's important that you understand the legal requirements.

These days, with few exceptions, all children under 12 years old and under 135cm in height must use an appropriate child restraint when travelling in any car or goods vehicle.

 

Since 18 September 2006:

  • All children under three 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 three or more years old and up to 135cm (approx 4ft 5in) in height 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 must not be used in seats with an active front air-bag and, 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.

Child seats used since May 2008 must be approved to UN ECE Reg 44.03 or a later standard e.g. seats approved to Reg 44.02 are not permitted.

You as the driver are responsible for seat belt wearing and restraint use by children under 14 years.

The penalty for offenders is a £30 fixed penalty notice or a maximum fine of £500 if a case goes to court.

Permitted exceptions

The law allows a special exemption for children over three years on an occasional journey (e.g. unforeseen emergency) over a short distance. The child must still use an adult belt and sit in the rear. This exemption is not for journeys such as the regular school run.

The only exception allowed for children under three is when they travel in the rear of taxis and a child seat is not available.

Summary table

 

Person in car

Front seat

Rear seat

Driver

A seat belt must be worn if fitted

 

Child under 3 years

The correct child seat must be used

The correct child seat must be used.

If one is not available in a taxi, 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 child restraints prevent use of a third

Child 12 or 13

(or younger child over 135cm)

A seat belt must be worn if fitted

 A seat belt must be worn if fitted

Adult passenger

A seat belt must be worn if fitted

 A seat belt must be worn if fitted

(6 June 2012)