CHILD SEATS LAW: As a rule, children must use a suitable child car seat until they either:
- Reach the age of 12 years old.
- Grow to a height of 135 centimetres tall (4′ 5″).
UK seat belt law requires children to wear a car safety belt once they reach 12 or grow taller than 135cm. But, until one of those occur, the choice of child car seat gets based on their height or weight.
Several other factors govern baby car seat laws. They include the type of vehicle used and whether it functions as a minibus or a licensed taxi.
A child’s weight often determines the best type of car seat or child restraint to use. RoSPA research shows young children are more vulnerable in vehicle collisions than adults.
Note: Not using the correct device, and not wearing a seat belt, can cause severe injuries and death.
Child restraints refer to specific car seats regulations for children under 12 years old. They include rear facing baby seats, forward facing chairs, and booster seat cushions.
|Child Weight||Group||Type and Facing Position of Child Car Seat|
|Infants up to 10kg||0||Use a ‘lie-flat or lateral’ baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier, or a rear-facing baby seat with harness|
|Babies up to 13kg||0+||Use a rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat with harness|
|Toddlers from 9kg to 18kg||1||Use a rear or forward facing baby seat with a harness or safety shield|
|Children from 15kg to 25kg||2||Use a rear or forward facing child seat (high-backed booster or booster cushion) with a seat belt, harness or safety shield|
|Children from 22kg to 36kg||3||Use a rear or forward facing child seat (high-backed booster or booster cushion) with a seat belt, harness or safety shield|
Note: Manufacturers must now make booster cushions approved as group 3 only. But, you can still use booster cushion types in group 2.
Height Based Car Seat Requirements
Height-based ‘i-Size‘ car seats must be rear-facing until your child turns 15 months old. Afterwards, your child can use a forward-facing car seat. You must check the seating installation and ensure it is suitable for your child’s height.
Note: The UK only allows the use of EU-approved height-based child car seats. This type has a label showing a capital ‘E‘ in a circle with ‘R129‘.
Weight Based Car Seat Requirements
Child weight influences the car seat you should use and the method that is restrains them. So there are several different child car seat manufacturers to choose from.
Note: The UK only allows the use of EU-approved weight-based child car seats. This type has a label showing a capital ‘E‘ in a circle with ‘ECE R44‘.
How to Install a Child Car Seat
Your car must have a seat belt with a diagonal strap to install and use a child restraint. Exceptions apply if the car seat is either:
- Designed and manufactured specifically for use with a lap seat belt.
- Fitted inside the car using ISOFIX anchorage points.
By law you must also:
- Deactivate any of the vehicle’s front airbags before installing a rear-facing baby seat at the front.
- Not install and use a child car seat in vehicles with side-facing seats.
Children with Disabilities Using Car Seats
The same car seat rules apply for children with a disability or a medical condition. You can fit a disabled child seat or they can use a seat belt for restraint. Your doctor may provide an exemption certificate if your child is unable to use standard vehicle seating restraints.
Correct Child Car Seat Regulations UK
You can choose your child car seating based on the height or weight of the toddler. But, there are two different European standards for using child restraint systems.
The two car seat standards are Regulation 129 (i-Size or ISOFIX seats) and Regulation 44.
Regulation 44 child seats base their use by child weight with a recommendation on age for car seats. Child height is the main criteria for Regulation 129 child seats law.
Child Seat Laws UK Guide
The EU safety regulation for child car seats (ECE R129) developed the rating of ‘i-Size’ in July 2013. The aim was to make them easier to install and increase protection from side impacts. The design focused on keeping children rearward-facing until they grew taller and heavier.
Most new i-Size seats ‘click’ easily into place using vehicle anchorage points. There is no need to use an adult seat belt for securing i-Size car seats into place. But, you should make sure your car has ISOFIX anchorage points fitted to use this model correctly.
Child car seats are safe and legal no matter which EU manufacturing standard they follow. Use this guide to find out if your child or baby car seat should be a forward-facing or rear-facing device.
When Can a Child Travel Without a Car Seat?
There are several occasions when a child does not need to use a car seat while travelling in a vehicle. This list explains the legal exceptions to the standard vehicle safety rules and restrictions.
Car Seat Laws UK: Taxi and Minicab (private hire vehicles)
What happens if a licenced taxi or minibus driver does not provide the correct car seat? In these cases children can travel without using one providing they travel on a rear seat. The child must sit behind the driver and:
- Wear an adult safety belt if they are 3 years or older.
- Travel without a safety belt if they are under 3 years old.
Child Seat Laws for Minibus, Van, and Coach
By law minibus or coach companies, and their drivers, do not need to provide child car seats. So you must provide your own if you consider it important for your child to use one.
Coaches: Children can travel in a coach without using car seating or safety belt if neither are available.
Minibuses: All children must travel in the rear compartment of a minibus. They can use any seating space behind the driver. This applies even if no seat belt or child booster seat got fitted. But, the current seat belt laws that apply to children aged 3 or older say they must:
- Use a child car seat in a minibus if there is one available.
- Use an adult safety belt if the child seating place is unsuitable or not fitted.
Vans: The UK child seat law is the same for vans as it is for cars.
Children over 3 can use an adult car belt if the correct seating is unavailable and all the journey is:
- Unexpected and a necessity.
- Takes place for only a short distance.
To take children under 3 on an unexpected journey in a vehicle without the right seating can only happen if:
- It is a licensed minicab or taxi and the child travels behind the driver without a belt.
No Place for a Third Child Seat?
Under UK law all children under 3 must be properly secured in a child car seat. What happens if there is no room for a third child seat in the back of the vehicle?
In this case children under three must travel in the front seat with the correct child seat. Children over three years can sit in the back using an adult belt.
Vehicles With No Fitted Seat Belts
Children under 3 must travel in a child car seat. If there is no seat belt, they cannot travel in that vehicle. Children over 3 can travel in the back seat without a car seat and without a seat belt if the vehicle does not have one.
Note: Seek professional advice for help choosing the right car seat. Travel safely with children in your vehicle.