Safety is at the forefront of every parent’s mind when it comes to their children, especially when driving. Although child car seat laws have been updated over the past few years to improve protection, not everyone is aware of the current regulations.
To improve the safety of your children while in the car, and to avoid being fined for using an incorrect car seat, here is our guide to UK car seat safety law:
What type of car seat does my child need and when?
After recent changes to the law, the breakdown of child seat weight thresholds are as follows:
|0 - 10kg||Rear-facing baby carrier, lie-flat or ‘lateral’ baby carrier, or rear-facing baby seat using a harness|
|0 - 13kg||Rear-facing baby seat or rear-facing baby carrier with a safety harness|
|9 - 18kg||Forward or rear-facing baby seat using a safety shield or harness|
|15 - 25kg||Forward or rear-facing child seat (booster cushion or high-backed booster seat) using a harness, safety shield or seat belt|
|22 - 36kg||Forward or rear-facing child seat (booster cushion or high-backed booster seat) using a harness, safety shield or seat belt|
The basics of the law determine that child seats are compulsory until a child is either 135cm tall or 12 years old. If you choose a car seat based on the height of your child, you must always use one that is rear-facing and features an integral harness until your child is over 15 months old.
When picking a child’s car seat based on the weight of your child, a rear-facing seat with a built-in harness will also have to be used. This can then be changed when the child reaches a weight of 13kg or more.
Once these limits have been exceeded, you have the option to use either a rear or front-facing child seat until they reach a weight of 18kg. This must also include either a safety shield or integral harness that helps to spread the load when a three-point safety belt is used.
From 18kg onwards, the child should then use a booster cushion or a high-backed booster seat.
When can my child travel without a car seat?
There are some exceptions to child car seat law. These tend to revolve around taking a journey in vehicles that are being used as a service for transportation.
For example, if you are using a minicab or taxi, a child can travel without a car seat but must wear a seat belt if the driver is not able to provide the correct car seat. Children over the age of three must also use an adult seat belt and be positioned in the back. Any children under the age of three do not have to use a seat belt to travel.
Journeys by coach and minibus are also quite similar. If there is no adult seat belt or child car seat provided, children must sit in the rear of the vehicle. Children aged three and over must use an adult seat belt.
If an unplanned, but important, short distance journey is needed, a child aged three or over can also use an adult seat belt. These rules also apply to children with any disabilities or medical conditions, although a disabled person’s seat belt or specific child restraint should be used instead. An exemption certificate can also be provided by a doctor if required.
Other things to look out for when buying a child seat
The new EU safety regulation for child car seats is called an ‘i-Size’. This was introduced back in 2013 and is designed to make the seat easier to fit into the vehicle, as well as improve protection from side impacts and ensure children remain rear-facing for a longer period.
One of the biggest changes seen in i-Size car seats is the use of Isofix fitting points. This allows the child car seat to be securely fixed in place without the use of a seat belt. While many older models do not have Isofix points installed, it is becoming increasingly common for new cars to feature them.
If you are unsure if your current car has Isofix points, check for Isofix labels which will be located between the back and base of the seats (you may also see the fitting points). Alternatively, you can refer to your vehicle’s handbook or contact the dealer or manufacturer for more details.
To find out if your Isofix child seat can be used in your vehicle, check with either the retailer or the manufacturer of the car seat. In many cases, retailers will display a list on their website detailing which seats are suitable for which cars. If not, the manufacturer should be able to provide a definitive answer. When buying an Isofix child seat, ask if you can try out the seat before you commit to buying to ensure there are no fitting issues.
Family cars with plenty of room for your little one
When looking to lease a new car, every family has different needs, based on their size, budget and routine. But to help get you started with your search, here are a few of our most popular family cars that provide ample room for the whole family.
Seat Ateca – An incredibly stylish yet inexpensive SUV, the Seat Ateca provides a minimum boot space of 510 litres as well as increased safety levels. It’s agile, easy to drive and ideal for family use.
Volkswagen Tiguan – The Tiguan is a handsome looking car with a fantastic range of standard features. These include air conditioning, an electronic parking brake and alloy wheels. A car that guarantees as much practicality as it does style.
Mazda CX-5 – Another popular leasing choice with families, the second generation CX-5 offers a responsive, stable driving experience. Choose between diesel and petrol, with standard features including front and rear parking sensors, hill hold assist and dual-zone climate control.