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Rules for carrying children in the car

  • Rules for carrying children in the car

Thanks to the versatile nature of our cars, many of us find ourselves regularly taxiing our children from A to B. From the cries of ‘are we nearly there yet?’ to the post-school run down of the day, our cars see so much family life, but with our little ones being just that, it’s important to know what the rules are around accommodating them in the car. 

What rules are there for carrying children in your car? 

For children under 12 years old or 135cm in height 

The law states that any child under 12 years old or 135cm in height must be seated in a suitable child restraint when travelling in cars or goods vehicles that are fitted with seat belts. 

In some European countries such as Ireland, France and Germany, this height threshold rises to 150cm. Currently, in the UK, you must use an EU-approved child seat, though these won’t be legally accepted outside of the UK, so be mindful if you plan on travelling somewhere like America. 

For children under 3 

All children under 3 must be secured in a vehicle using an appropriate child restraint. However, in the case of babies in rear-facing car seats, these mustn’t be used in seats that have a front-facing airbag. 

For children 12 or over, or a younger child over 135cm in height 

Once a child reaches 12 years old, or if a younger child grows to more than 135cm in height, they must wear a seat belt where one is fitted, just as we do as adults! It’s the law, and failure to wear one or ensure that a child under 14 is wearing one could land you with a £500 fine. 

Are there exemptions?

Yes! But only a couple… 

If there is an unforeseen emergency in which a child over 3 needs to travel in a car that isn’t fitted with a suitable child restraint over a short distance, they may do so providing they still travel in a rear seat and wear an adult seat belt. This is for genuine emergencies, not for the odd trip to the shops! 

For children under 3, the only exception is in the case of taxis that don’t have a suitable child restraint available. 

How do I know a child restraint is the right one? 

The correct restraint for your child is one that is suitable for their weight (check the product details), can be fitted into your vehicle as per the manufacturer's instructions, and is compliant with the ECE Regulation 44/03 or ECE 44/04 standards, United Nations standard, or is approved under UN R129 (this includes i-Size).

The effectiveness of a child restraint in the event of an accident is reliant on the above being correct, so it’s important that your child is restrained in accordance with the law - it’s there for a reason.