Does my child need a car seat?

The correct car seat for your child can protect and even save your child’s life in a collision. Find out which seat your child should be using according to UK Law.

Why do I need a car seat for my child?

A properly fitting car seat, selected to reflect the age and weight of a child, will protect the child in the case of a collision. The car seat will adhere to your child’s age range to comfortably support your child.

If a child who is under 135cm’s uses an adult seat belt alone, they risk damaging internal organs as the lap part of the belt sits too high across their stomach or slipping out of the belt altogether in the event of a crash.

Only European approved child seats and booster cushions can be used in the UK. These clearly show a capital “E” in a circle.

Children under three: must use a car seat appropriate to weight in any vehicle and rear-facing baby seats must NOT be used in a seat protected by an airbag, unless it has been deactivated. A forward facing car seat should be placed in a front seat with airbag as long as it is safe to do so. Check your car handbook and ensure the seat is as far away from the dashboard as possible. Only use a seat with airbag for a front facing seat if you have no other option.

The only exceptions to these rules are if you are travelling in the rear of a taxi and have no appropriate seat available.

Children over three: until aged 12 or over 135 cm your child must use the correct car seat. It is illegal for someone under 12 or under 135 cm to use an adult seat belt solely.

Exceptions to this rule are:

  • If you are travelling in a taxi and there are no appropriate child car seats available
  • For a short journey in an ‘unexpected necessity’ which covers emergencies where you have to collect your child or someone elses unexpectedly.
  • Where you have three children under 12 or under 135cm travelling in the rear of your car and only two child seats will fit. In this instance, the tallest child should use an adult seatbelt.

Group 0 and group 0 rear facing baby seats

These seats are suitable for babies up to 13 Kilogrammes (from birth to around 9-12 months).

You must not use a rear facing car seat in a seat protected by an airbag as this can cause harm to the infant.

Group I forward or rear facing baby seats

These seats are suitable for infants 9 to 18 Kilogrammes(from about nine months to four years) and are used when your child outgrows their rear facing car seat.

When using a forward facing car seat in an airbag protected seat, make sure the seat is as far away from the dashboard as possible.

Group II forward child car seats

Children weighing 15-25 Kilogrammes(from about four to six years) can use child booster seats or car seats. These may have side wings or backs and have no internal straps. An adult seat belt is used to secure the child.

Group III forward facing booster cushions

When your child is above 22 Kilogrammes(from about six to 12 years), they can use a booster cushion. This kind of car seat may not have a back but simply raises the child so they can use an adult seat belt.

Does my child still need a car seat?

When your child reaches the age of 12, or is above 135cm (approx 4ft 5in) they are the correct height to safely use just an adult seat belt. This is because they have grown and developed into the correct positioning to suit an adult belt.

Source: THINK!

Photography: Lars Ploughmann @Flickr

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