February 17, 2017

Five questions answered on the new, tighter rules governing Child Car Seats

As a nation we drove 317bn miles between us last year, whether through commuting to work or doing the shopping. But while most of us are aware of rules around driving safety like speed limits and maintaining our vehicles with regular services, are all of us aware of the new Child Car Seat safety rule that has come into effect?

The new rules mean manufacturers will no longer be allowed to introduce new models of backless booster seats (booster cushions) for children shorter than 125cm or weighing less than 22kg. However, parents will not need to replace car seats they have already bought and can continue to use them.

Here’s five questions answered on the legislative changes you need to know around child car seats.

1. What is the current law regarding the use of child car seats?

Only EU-approved child car seats can be used in the UK – these have a label showing a capital “E” in a circle. Parents should choose a car seat based on their child’s height or weight. Children must use a child car seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm (4ft 5in) tall, whichever comes first, and children over 12 must wear a seatbelt.

A driver can be fined up to £500 if a child under 14 does not wear a seat belt or child restraint. Anyone 14 and over not wearing a seat belt must pay the fine themselves.

There are exceptions, however.

For example, children can travel without a child car seat in a taxi or minicab if they travel on a rear seat and wear an adult seat belt if they are aged three or older or without a seat belt if they are under three.

2. What are the new child car seat rules?

The new changes apply to the rules regarding backless booster seats. The United Nations, which sets the safety standards for car seats, has approved the change which must now be implemented by the EU and will affect the entire UK. Currently, parents can use these types of seats for children who weigh 15kg (2st 5lbs) and above – typically aged three and over.
The new rules will mean only children weighing over 22kg (3st 7lbs) who are also over 125cm (4ft 1ins) tall can use the seats.

3. Why have the child car seat rules changed?

Many child car seat experts say they are unsuitable for small children as the child is not held as securely in the seat, the adult seatbelt is not guided across their body in the best way and they offer little protection if a car is involved in a side-on crash.

4. What if you have already bought a child car seat?

The changes will only apply to new backless seats and not ones already on the market that meet current safety standards. Parents can continue to use their current model after the rule change and will not need to buy a new one. It will be down to manufacturers of new seats to ensure they meet the revised safety standards and are labelled correctly. Anyone buying a new booster seat should take extra care to read the manufacturers labelling and instructions to ensure their selection is appropriate for the child. All car seats must be installed as per manufacturers instructions.

5. Which child car seat should you have?

Many parents think they can judge which car seat they need to buy based on their child’s age, but car seats are typically categorised according to height and weight. Height-based car seats, known as ‘i-Size’ seats, must be rear-facing until the child is over 15 months old.

Further information can be found online www.childcarseats.org.uk.

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About the author

Donna Buckle

She has eight years' experience in the field of environmental health, having previously worked in the charitable sector as Health & Safety Lead and Depot Manager before joining the team as a Consultant in 2015. Donna is NEBOSH-qualified and a University of Reading graduate.

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