Are you Seatbelt Savvy?
Hi, I’m Helen. I’m a paralegal. I’m a Mum of two. And generally I like to think of myself as fairly law abiding. Until recently that is. When I realised that I had potentially been breaking the law with my choice of car seat for my 12 month old son.
Do you know about the new car seat laws in the UK?
Anyone with children will know that they like to change the guidance on well, pretty much everything! Wean them at 3 months/4 months/6 months… put them down to sleep on their front/on their back… It’s a minefield of advice and confusion and just general murkiness. I always worked on do what is best for you. With my daughter I followed everything they told me religiously, went to all the classes going, read everything they gave me, and now with my second child, I’m much more relaxed. I mean my daughter has made it to 5 and is fit and healthy so I can’t have done anything too terrible! I’ve just been following the guidance I was given with her and adapting it to meet the needs of my son.
Not once did I realise that there were new EU safety Regulations on child car seats. Not once did I think to check if my car seat was weight based or height based – I mean who knows the difference?! I was shocked when I realised that it had changed so I had a chat with a few of my mummy-friends and can honestly say that not one of them knew about the changes.
The penalty for not using a seatbelt, or using the incorrect seatbelt is a fine of up to £500. As a basic rule if there is a seat belt then you must use it. Reading through the guidance there are exceptions but for me my priority is the Child-Seatbelt section.
So here it is, my advice and guidance to you – taken directly from the gov.uk website in the hopes that you won’t get caught out by this:
- Children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first.
- Only EU-approved child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle.
Seats, as reported above, can be Height based or Weight based – and this is where I believe parents could, very innocently and unintentionally, fall foul of the law.
Height-based car seats
Height-based car seats are known as ‘i-Size’ seats. They must be rear-facing until your child is over 15 months old. Your child can use a forward-facing car seat when they’re over 15 months old.
Your child’s weight does not matter in a car seat of this type.
Weight-based car seats
Weight-based car seats must be rear-facing until your child weighs more than 9kg. Which seat they use after then will depend on their weight.
Child’s weight Type of Car seat
9kg to 18kg Rear or forward-facing baby seat
15kg to 25kg Rear or forward-facing child seat (booster seat)
Over 22kg Booster cushion
So as you can see, height doesn’t come into it at all!
There are few exceptions where a child can travel without a car seat:
- In a licensed taxi or minicab children under 3 years of age can travel without a child’s car seat or seat belt, but only on the back seat while children aged 3 years or older can travel without a child’s car seat if they wear an adult seat belt.
- In a private car if it is an unexpected, necessary and short (all of which to me seem very subjective) journey, then a child over 3 years of age can use an adult seat belt but you can’t take children under 3 in a vehicle without a seat belt or the correct child car seat (except a taxi or minicab).
- If there is no room for a third child seat then children over 3 years can sit in the back using an adult belt. If the child is under 3 then they must be in a child car seat. If there’s no room for a third child seat in the back of the vehicle, the child must travel in the front seat with the correct child seat (remembering to switch the airbags off if necessary).
- If the vehicle does not have seat belts a child over 3 can travel in a back seat without a car seat and without a seat belt if the vehicle doesn’t have one. But children under 3 must be in a child car seat. If there’s no seat belt, they can’t travel.
If you are unsure about the type of car seat you have then any of the major suppliers should be able to help you – generally I have been informed that the new Height Based ones are clearly marked with an ‘I’ on them and will have been a recent purchase (probably post July 2013 when the new regulations came into effect).