Child car seats and the law

Baby asleep in car seat

Baby asleep in car seat

This is a guide to the laws on child car seats and restraints which came into effect in September 2006. One of the key changes in the law relates to children under 1.35 metres or under the age of 12 – they must use a booster seat if they have outgrown their toddler seat.

Car seats for children up to three years

  • The correct child restraint for their weight must be used in the rear seat of all cars, vans and good vehicles. Taxis are excepted.
  • The child may be in the front of a passenger vehicle as long as they are in the correct restraint for their weight.
  • Children may not travel in cars, vans or goods vehicles that do not have seat belts installed.

Car seats for children over three years

This applies to children between their 3rd birthday and their 12th birthday, or until they reach 1.35m in height – whichever comes sooner.

  • Children may travel in the front seat only if there is the correct child restraint fitted for the child’s weight.
  • Where seat belts are fitted, the correct child restraint for the child’s weight must be used in the rear seat.
  • Children may travel in a taxi or private hire vehicle using an adult seat belt if they do not have suitable child seat with them.
  • A child may use an adult belt in the rear seat if there are already two occupied child restraints in the vehicle preventing the fitting of a third.
  • For short and unexpected necessary journeys (such as in a friend’s car) a child may travel using an adult seat belt in the rear seat only.

Child over 1.35 metres (or over 12 years old)

This also applies to adults.

  • The child may sit in the front or back of the vehicle but must wear a seat belt (if available).

Additional rules

  • Rear-facing baby seats must not be used in a seat protected by frontal air-bag unless the air-bag has been deactivated.

Find out more at Childcarseats.org.uk.

Which? guides

Which? offers a lot of information on its website, including a guide to the best car seats for your child and for your vehicle.
View the Which? guide to child car seats

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