The Law On Driving With Children In The Car
Keeping young people safe on the move
The law states that ‘all children travelling in the front or rear seat of any car, van or goods vehicle must use the correct child car seat until they are either 135cm in height or 12 years old (whichever they reach first).’
The correct child car seat depends on the age and weight of the child:
- From Birth: A rear-facing baby seat must be used from birth, although if it is used in the front, then the driver needs to ensure that the airbag in front of that seat is switched off. Depending on the model of rear-facing seat, it can be used up to the age of 18 months.
- From Nine Months: The next stage is a forward-facing child seat, which can be used from nine months until around four years old.
- From Four Years: A high-backed booster seat should be used between the ages of four and six.
- From Six Years: A simple booster seat is required until the child reaches 135cm in height or until they are 12.
A child must use the correct car seat for the majority of the time. However, there are a few exceptions.
In a taxi, children under the age of three can travel without a car seat as long as they are in the back of the vehicle and wearing an adult seatbelt. Those over the age of three can travel in any seat as long as they are wearing a seatbelt.
On unexpected journeys, car seats aren’t always needed, but this is only the case if the journey is ‘unexpected, necessary and over a short distance’.
Children over the age of three can travel on these journeys without a car seat as long as they are wearing a seatbelt. However, those under three MUST be in the correct car seat. These rules also apply when there is physically no more room for a third seat in the back.
One of many misunderstandings is that the rules about car seats do not apply to vehicles other than the child’s usual car. This is not the case.
If the child is going on a journey with grandparents, a carer or anybody else, then they need to have the correct car seat fitted into that car.
No matter whether the child is yours or not, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that any child aged under 14 years old is in the correct car seat and is wearing their seatbelt.
Once the child reaches the age of 14, responsibility passes to them.
Anyone convicted of breaking the law faces a £100 fine which could rise to £500 if it results in a court appearance.
Travelling with children can often be stressful, especially if they have learnt how to undo their harness or seatbelt.
As it is a legal requirement for passengers in a car to be wearing a seatbelt, if a child does undo it, the advice is to pull over as soon as possible and put it back on.
If the child constantly unfastens it, it’s advisable to get another adult to sit in the back with them to fasten it again if this does happen.
Anti-tampering devices do exist to stop them from undoing the buckles; however these are not recommended as it could affect the effectiveness of a seatbelt or buckle in an accident.
Smoking In Cars
New legislation is expected to be introduced making it an offence for anyone to smoke, or allow smoking, in a car carrying children.