The law on child car seats: Are you up to date?

Child in car seat looking out window

As a driver, it is your responsibility to take care of all passengers in your vehicle.

When children are involved there are specific legal requirements that we all need to be aware of which can help keep children safe in the unfortunate event of an accident on the road.

Did you know it is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that any child under the age of 14 is safely and properly restrained in the vehicle?

To allow a child to travel unrestrained in a vehicle is illegal and can incur a fine and possible penalty points.

Child booster seat laws

Changes to the law regarding backless booster seats came into force in 2017. Under the new laws, the sale of backless booster seats was banned for children under a certain weight and height, however, parents with existing chairs are not affected.

A child under 125cm and weighing less than 22kg - the average height and weight for children between six and eight - will be unsuitable to travel in these seats.

Find below an overview of legal requirements around child car seats and some advice to help you when travelling with children.

Guidance on the right child seat to help keep children safe

In the unfortunate event that an accident does happen on the road and involves young children, the correct child car seat can help keep them safe.

Drivers should be aware that not all child seats fit properly into cars and thorough checks should always be carried out when fitting a child car seat.

Child seats and the law

  • Children must use a child car seat until they are either 12 years old or 135cm tall - whichever comes first. (There are some exceptions such as if it is an unexpected emergency over a short distance – but only if the child is over the age of three and wearing a seatbelt).
  • Only child car seats which meet European Union safety requirements can be used in the UK (labelled with capital E in a circle). 
  • Children over 12 or more than 135cm tall must wear a seat belt. 
  • Height-based child seats are known as ‘i-Size’ seats. These must be a rear-facing child seat until your child is over 15 months old, then your child can use a forward-facing child car seat. 
  • The seat must be suitable for your child's weight and size .
  • The seat must be correctly fitted according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • The seat must be in a safe condition.

What if there is not a child car seat available?

Exceptions to the rules include cases where you are travelling without a car, for example:

  • the child is in a taxi or minicab 
  • the child is in a minibus, coach or van 

Other exceptions include:

  • there’s no room for another car seat for children
  • the child is on an unexpected journey, for example an emergency

More information about the current legal requirement surrounding child car seats can be found on this UK Government website.

Child seats should be replaced in any car accident

In the event of an accident, child car seats should be replaced afterwards even if there is no visible damage as it may have been weakened to the extent that it will no longer provide the same level of protection.