Skip to content

Car seats and the law

Understanding child car seat laws and insurance in the UK

Sara Newell
Written by  Sara Newell
5 min read
Updated: 13 Feb 2024

There are lots of rules when it comes to children and car seats. Our guide explains what you need to know

Navigating the world of child car safety can be complex, with a myriad of regulations and insurance considerations to keep in mind. In the UK, strict rules are in place to ensure the safety of our youngest passengers, and it's crucial for parents and carers to stay informed to avoid penalties and ensure their children's protection.

Children's car seats: The law

The UK has established stringent regulations concerning the fitting and use of child car seats. These laws are designed to provide the best possible protection for children in the event of a car accident. Parents and caregivers are legally required to adhere to these rules, and failure to do so can result in hefty fines and, more importantly, compromised safety for the child.

Man putting children in car seats

What are the rules for child car seats?

In the UK, children must use a car seat until they reach 12 years old or 135cm in height. At that point, they must transition to using the vehicle's seat belt. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For instance, children over three years old are permitted to sit in the back seat without a car seat or seatbelt if the vehicle isn't equipped with one.

For children under three, the rules are even more stringent. They must always be in a child car seat, with very few exceptions, such as in a taxi or minicab, during emergencies, or when travelling in minibuses, coaches, or vans where fitting a car seat is not possible.

Driving abroad

When driving abroad, it's essential to be aware of local laws regarding child car seats. For example, in some countries, such as Germany, the requirement is that all children must use a car seat if they are under 150cm tall or are under the age of 12. This is worth remembering if you are planning to drive internationally, and you should check the local rules before you depart.

Do I have child car seat insurance with my standard policy?

Child car seat insurance is not typically included in standard car insurance policies. It is often offered as an additional feature. Given the high cost of car seats, it's worth checking with your insurer to see if your policy covers them in the event of an accident.

What to consider for child car seat insurance

When looking into child car seat insurance, there are several factors to consider:

  • Will the insurance provide a replacement seat or a cash sum?

  • What is the value of the cash sum provided?

  • Is there a requirement for visible damage to claim?

  • Are there limits on the value of replacement seats?

These considerations will help you understand the extent of your coverage and what to expect in the event of an accident.

Choosing the right child seat

When purchasing a child car seat, it's vital to ensure it meets UK safety standards. Always buy from a reputable retailer and steer clear of second-hand seats or those that are fabric-only, as they may not provide adequate protection.

Height-based and weight-based seats

There are two main types of car seats to choose from: height-based known as i-Size seats and weight-based. i-Size seats must be rear-facing until the child is over 15 months old, and only those with an EU-approved 'R129' label are legal in the UK. Weight-based seats are categorised by the child's weight into groups 0 to 3, each specifying the type of seat and restraint required. These must have an EU-approved 'ECE R44' label to be used in the UK.

Fitting a child car seat

Proper installation of a child car seat is critical for its effectiveness. Seat belts must have a diagonal strap unless the car seat is specifically designed for lap belts or ISOFIX anchor points. Additionally, front airbags must be deactivated when using a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a vehicle.

Special circumstances

Children with disabilities or medical conditions may require specialised restraints or a child seat. In some cases, an exemption certificate is necessary if a standard restraint cannot be used.

Unexpected journeys and taxis

For unexpected, necessary, and short journeys, children over three can use an adult seat belt. Under-threes can travel without a child seat in a taxi or minicab, but this is not the ideal scenario for child safety.

Minibuses, coaches, and limited space

It's the caregiver's responsibility to provide a child seat in minibuses and coaches. If there's no room for a third child seat in the back of a car, a child under three must either be in a child seat or not travel at all, while older children can use an adult seat belt.

Penalties for non-compliance

Failing to properly restrain a child in a car can result in a £100 fine, which can increase to £500 if the case goes to court. Moreover, if a child is injured or killed while not properly restrained, insurance claims may be affected, and the driver could face legal action.

Ensuring the safety of children in vehicles is a responsibility that should never be taken lightly. By understanding and adhering to the regulations, and ensuring proper insurance coverage, we can make every journey safer for our little ones. Remember, the law serves as a baseline for safety; it's always advisable to exceed these requirements whenever possible to provide the highest level of protection for child passengers.