Happy New Year.
Over the festive period a friend of mine with a small child commented on how confusing the law is in relation to car seats and belts for children. Foster carers have regular reminders on what the laws states so I thought it might be useful to pass on the main points.
When buying a car seat seek the advice of the specially trained assistant in the shop. All seats must be fitted following the manufacture’s instructions. Remember to deactivate the front airbag before fitting a rear-facing baby seat in a front seat.
Please note that the legislation on car seats is about to change (the changes are anticipated to be introduced in March 2017) - see the February 2017 edition of Foster Care magazine for more information. Currently, children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first. Only EU-approved child car seats can be used in the UK. The new legislation, which will affect newly-bought car seats, says backless booster seats can only be used by children taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg. At the moment, children weighing as little as 15kg can travel in backless booster seats.
Height-based car seats are known as i-Size seats and must be rear-facing until the child is over 15 months old. The child can use a forward-facing car seat when they’re over 15 months old.
Children with disabilities or medical conditions can use a disabled person’s seat belt or a child restraint designed for their needs. A doctor can issue an exemption certificate if a child is unable to use a restraint or seat belt because of their condition.
There are a few times when a child can travel without a car seat: in taxis and minicabs if the correct car seat isn’t provided. But they must travel in a rear seat. If they are three years or older they must use the belt provided.
Minibus or coach companies don’t have to provide child car seats. You can provide one if you wish. If they are over three then they must use an adult belt if a child car seat isn’t fitted.
Unexpected journeys: If the correct child seat isn’t available a child aged three or older can use an adult seat belt if the journey is necessary, unexpected and over a short distance. You can’t take children under 3 on an unexpected journey in a vehicle without the correct child car seat, unless both of the following apply:
- it’s a licensed taxi or minicab
- the child travels on a rear seat without a seat belt.
The Winter 2017 edition of Foster Care magazine has further information about the car seat legislation changes that are due to be introduced.