It is the law in the UK that everyone wears a seat belt. One important part of protecting your child from harm is making sure they travel in a car seat best suited to their age, weight or height.
The basics of UK child car seat law are;
Children must use a car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall. Whichever of these happens first.
Children older than 12 years and / or taller than 135cm must still wear an adult seatbelt.
Which Car Seat Does My Child Need?
There is so much information and choice out there it can be hard to know what car seat your child should be using. Firstly all seats should have the right safety standards for the UK these are;
Car seats that meet these safety standards will have a label with a capital ‘E’ in the centre.
The type of car seat your child needs depends on their height and weight.
If your child has any additional needs that make the use of car seats more difficult, talk to the team involved in their care for advice. Driving Mobility have more information about this.
Car seats are essential for safety; help your child understand this from a young age.
Do not be distracted by your child and concentrate on driving. If you feel yourself becoming distracted, stop the car as soon as you safely can, until you feel able to focus again.
Rear Facing Seats
Children should use a rear facing car seat from birth and for as long as possible.
It is UK law that children use a rear facing seat until they are 15 months old (or weigh more than 9 kgs). However there is research that children should stay in a rear facing seat until they are 4 years old. This is law in some countries. It has been shown to offer better protection for children.
Young children have less developed skeletons. In ‘head on’ collisions (usually the most dangerous) when facing forward a child’s neck, spine and vital organs are at higher risk of serious harm. If they are in a rear facing car seat, this absorbs the ‘force’ of the accident. Researchers say that this means children are 90-95% protected from serious harm in a rear-facing car seat, Compared to 60-70% in a forward-facing car seat.
If you are worried about using a rear facing car seat, remember;
Front Facing Seats
Once your child is ready for a front facing seat with inbuilt harness, this can be used;
Use the harness as the instructions show and check for a good fit every time.
Some booster seats use the adult 3 point seat belt and not a 5 point harness. UK rules for their use has changed.
Boosters with a back can be used;
Backless booster seats should now only be used;
Older backless boosters will still say use from 15 kgs (2 stone 5 pounds).
The Lullaby Trust has important advice for travelling with babies.
Norfolk County Council offer a free child car seat checking service.
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.