Seat Belt Law

Summary of seat belt and child seat law

All new cars must have front and rear seat belts fitted which must be worn.

Older cars without seat belts do not need to have them fitted and worn. However, if seat belts are fitted in older cars they must be worn.

When did they become compulsory?

In 1983 the wearing of front seat belts became compulsory for adults; in 1991 the wearing of rear seat belts became compulsory.

In September 2006 it became compulsory for all children under 12 years and under 135cm to use child restraints.

The rules – since 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.
    (Few exceptions are permitted.)
  • Rear-facing baby seats must not be used in seats with an active frontal air-bag.
  • From May 2009, where seat belts are provided, the number of people carried in the rear of vehicles may not exceed the number of seats available fitted with seat belts or child restraints.
  • From May 2008, only child restraints complying with UN ECE Reg 44.03 or a later standard may be used.
  • In a vehicle without seat belts (e.g. a classic car) children 3 years and over can only travel in the back and those under 3 years cannot be carried at all.

Drivers remain responsible for seat belt wearing and use of the relevant child seat or booster by children under 14 years of age.

Penalties for offenders remain at a £30 fixed penalty notice or a maximum fine of £500 if a case goes to court.

Permitted exceptions

There is a special exemption for children over three years on an occasional journey (eg 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.

Children under three years must always have a child seat. The only exception 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 occassional 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.


For more details about the new rules visit the Department for Transport (DfT) website.

 

11 November 2009