New child car seat rules: what drivers should be aware of

Baby car seat

Since the UK government introduced new child car seat legislation on 1 March 2017 there has been some confusion regarding what is now allowed.

Here we discuss the changes, so parents can familiarise themselves with the new rules and keep within the law whilst protecting the safety of their young family.

Which changes have been made?

From 1 March 2017, the manufacturing and distribution of backless booster seats for children under the age of 12, weighing under 22kg, and under 125cm in height is forbidden.

This rule is now in force in all EU member states and was introduced to coincide with modern vehicle safety tests. These show that children travelling in backless, cushioned seats do not receive sufficient side and back support and are therefore at greater risk in the event of an impact.

To make it easier for parents, child car seats that are approved and lawful will now always carry a sticker featuring an ‘E’ and headed with the code ‘ECE R44.’ Child seats based on height (i-Size’ seats) will feature a sticker with ‘E’ in a circle and ‘R129’.

The table below (taken from www.gov.uk) specifies exactly what is required in relation to a child’s weight:

Child’s weight Group Seats
0kg to 10kg 0 Lie-flat or ‘lateral’ baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier, or rear-facing baby seat using a harness
0kg to 13kg 0+ Rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness
9kg to 18kg 1 Rear- or forward-facing baby seat using a harness or safety shield
15kg to 25kg 2 Rear- or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield
22kg to 36kg 3 Rear- or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield

Which rules remain in place?

All children up to 12 years old or under 135cm in height (depending on which comes first) must use a child car seat while travelling in a passenger vehicle. The driver of a vehicle will receive a £500 fine if a child under these limits is travelling without an approved child car seat.

Do I need to rush to buy a new seat?

Those who continue to use a backless booster seat purchased before March 2017 will not be punished or fined. However, for safety reasons we recommend purchasing a high-backed seat as soon as possible if your child is under 22kg or 125cm in height.

Are there any exemptions to the rules?

In certain circumstances, a child car seat is not a legal requirement, however the exemptions are few and specific:

  • Unexpected journeys that are urgent, only cover a short distance, and the child is over three years old. A seat belt must then be worn.
  • In taxis, minicabs, minibuses, and coaches (but NOT vans), however, a seat belt must be then worn by children over three years old.

Advice for fitting a child car seat

Unless a child car seat is fitted using ISOFIX anchor points or specifically manufactured to be used with a lap seat belt, then it should always be placed in a vehicle seat that is fitted with a diagonal seat belt.

Other factors to be aware of:

  • When using a rear-facing baby seat in the front of a car/van then the airbags for that specific seat must be deactivated.
  • Never place a child car seat on a side-facing car seat.
  • Always replace a child car seat if it was fitted in a vehicle when it was involved in an accident, regardless of a lack of visible damage.
  • Visit http://www.childcarseats.org.uk for more information.