The law regarding car seats and booster seats changed recently. The change has been implemented earlier than anticipated and affects both families and manufacturers from the 1st March 2017.
Our Arandeep Lally, Solicitor and proud mum of twins, summarises the updated legal requirements to help other parents navigate the changes.
Previously, parents of children weighing as little as 15kg could use backless booster seats but these have now been deemed as unsuitable under the new rules.
Safety experts at the UN warn that backless booster seats do not protect smaller children against side-impacts.
If parents already have backless booster seats and cushions in their vehicles then they are not legally affected by the new rules and are allowed to carry on using them as normal as long as their child weighs at least 15kgs.
The rules are now as follows:
• Children using the backless boosters will need to weigh more than 22kg and be taller than 125cm.
• Children are required to use car seats until they are either twelve years old or 135 cm (4ft5in) tall, whichever comes first.
• Children over the age of twelve or taller than 135cm must wear a seatbelt.
• If however your child is under twelve or smaller than 135cm and does therefore require a car seat then the correct seat can be selected based on height or weight.
• The seat can be rear-or front- facing if your baby is older than fifteen months but for those first months of life up to at least fifteen months a baby must face the back of the car.
• If your baby weighs less than 9kg then they should travel in a baby carrier rather than a child seat.
• Only EU approved seats are allowed to be used in the UK- Check for the capital E in a circle
• If your child has any disabilities then they may need a specially designed seat.
It is vital to ensure that the seat itself is fitted correctly and as securely as possible with no excessive movement when tested.
When choosing a car seat it is important to ensure that it has either a diagonal strap; one that is designed to be used with a lap seat belt or one that has ISOFIX anchor points. The ISOFIX Points attach the child car seat to the actual seat of the car directly by three points; two metal bars at the base, and a top tether or support leg.
Many stores selling car seats will provide a fitting service to ensure the seats are fitted correctly.
Sometimes busy parents may buy car seats online so would not get the benefit of having the fitting checked in-store. We therefore list here some handy tips for ensuing that your child’s seat is fitted correctly if you are installing the seat yourself;
• Deactivate any front air bags before fitting a rear-facing baby seat
• Do not use any side facing seats.
• The seat buckle must be outside the frame to prevent the risk of it opening in an accident.
• Make sure that the harness is pulled tight with a maximum of two fingers’ room between their collar bones and the shoulder straps.
• Check the harness buckle is as low as possible (ideally across the child’s pelvis rather than their stomach).
Always read the car seat instructions carefully and contact the manufacturer or supplier if there are any concerns.
There are a few exceptions to the law where children can legally travel without a car seat:
• On unexpected emergency journeys if only for a short distance and the child is over three years old.
• In a minibus, minicab, taxi, coach or van but not in the front of the vehicle.
• If there are three children sitting in the back of the car and there is not room for a third seat and the child is at least three years old.
In order to keep babies and small children safe on car journeys, it is not only advisable to comply with the above but it is now the law. Parents who have existing seats will not be fined and face any action for having a backless booster but you will face a £500.00 fine if you are found travelling with your child in the incorrect seat requirements for their age, height and weight regardless.
Finally, it is worth noting that some main suppliers of child car seats are currently offering trade in options so that you can trade in your backless booster seats for new compliant seats and take advantage of a discounted price. You should enquire in store at the supplier of your choice for any such offers.
About the author
Arandeep Lally is a Solicitor within Spencers Solicitors' mixed liability team. Arandeep manages an extensive case load ranging from public liability to criminal injury claims.