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Child Seats and Seat Belts- Is Your Child Safe?

Baby in Car SeatThe rules about child seats and seat belts in cars can be confusing, but it’s a subject every parent should be familiar with. From birth and beyond, we’ve put together a useful guide to answer your questions.

Penalties for not using a seat belt or child car seat

If you, as a driver, are convicted of not ensuring that a child passenger is restrained using an appropriate child seat or seat belt, you could be fined up to £500.

In addition, you could be affecting any claims you made against your car insurance policy and you might also face civil legal proceedings for damages for failing to safely carry another person’s child.

Types of child seat

There are four basic categories of child seat, based according to the weight of the child. You might broadly break these down into age groups, but as no two children are ever the same it’s best to be guided by their weight.

Groups 0 and 0+ baby seats (rearward-facing baby seats)

Group 0 for babies up to 10kg (22lbs); group 0+ for babies up to 13kg (29lbs).

They can be used in the front or rear seats, but the rear is safer. Rear-facing baby seats must NOT be used in the front passenger seat if an airbag is fitted. Rear-facing baby seats are considered to give more protection to a baby’s head, neck and spine than forward-facing seats, so try to keep your baby rear-facing for as long as possible.

Group 1 (forward-facing baby seats)

From Group 1, child seats are forward-facing. This group of child seat is designed for children weighing 9 – 18 kgs (20 to 40lbs), or roughly 9 months to four years old.

Group 1 child seats can be used in either the front or the rear passenger seats of a car, but as before, the rear is considered safer, especially if an airbag is fitted in the front passenger seat.

Group 2 (booster seats)

Group 2 child seats are commonly known as booster seats and are suitable for children weighing between 15 to 25 kgs (33 to 55lbs); that’s a rough age group of four to six years.

Booster seats can often be converted into booster cushions by removing the back part of the seat. Booster seats may be used in both front and rear passenger seats, but the rear is safer.

Group 3 (booster cushions)

Group 3 child seats are often called booster cushions and are designed for children weighing 22 – 36kgs (48 to 79lbs); that equates to an approximate age group of six to eleven years old.

Child can use a booster cushion in the front or rear passenger seat (the rear is safer if an airbag is fitted in the front).

Is it age, height or weight that matters?

Weight is simply a factor which helps you decide which category of child seat you use (Groups 0 to 3 described above). The important thing to know is that the law requires all children travelling in cars to use the correct child restraint until they are either 135cm in height or they reach the age of 12 (whichever comes first).

It is the driver’s responsibility (not necessarily the parent’s, in law) for ensuring that a child travelling in their car is correctly restrained.

Taxis and hire cars

An exception applies to taxis and hire cars. Up to the age of three, if a suitable child seat is not available, a child is permitted to be unrestrained in these classes of vehicle. This exception has been made for practical reasons, however, rather than ones of safety, and you should always try to ensure that a taxi or hire car has a suitable child seat available if possible.

Third child in the rear passenger seats

Another exception applies where two child seats are already fitted in the rear of a car, leaving no room for a third to be fitted. In this situation, it’s permitted for a child to use an adult seat belt instead.

After child seats

When a child reaches the appropriate height or age to not use a booster cushion, they MUST use an adult seat belt if one is available.