Child Car Seats

Cars, Taxis, Private Hire Vehicles, Vans and Goods Vehicles

The law requires 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 135 cm in height or 12 years old (which ever they reach first). After this they must use an adult seat belt. There are very few exceptions.

It is the driver's responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 14 years are restrained correctly in accordance with the law.

 

Children under 3 years old

In the Front Seat

  • Children MUST use the correct child car seat.
  • It is illegal to carry a child in a rearward-facing child seat in the front if there is an active front passenger airbag.

In the Rear Seat

  • Children MUST use the correct child restraint.

Exception

In a licensed taxi or licensed hire car, if a child car seat is not available, the child may travel unrestrained in the rear. This is the only exception for children under 3 years, and was introduced for practical rather than safety reasons. You should always think about ways to make sure that a child seat is available.

It is the driver's legal responsibility to ensure that the child is correctly restrained.

 

Children aged 3 years and above, until they are EITHER 12 years old OR 135 cm tall

In the Front Seat

  • Children MUST use the correct child restraint.

In the Rear Seat

  • Children MUST use the correct restraint, where seat belts are fitted.

Exceptions

  1. Licensed taxi or private hire vehicle
  2. Short, unexpected journey
  3. Two occupied child restraints in the rear prevent a third being fitted
  4. Vehicle is not fitted with seat belts

Taxis and minicabs (private hire vehicles)

  • Children under 3 years of age can travel without a child's car seat or seat belt, but only in the rear of the vehicle
  • Children aged 3 years or older can travel without a child's car seat if they wear an adult seat belt

Unexpected journeys

If an appropriate child car seat is not available, a child over 3 years of age can use an adult seat belt if the journey is all of the following:

  • Unexpected
  • Necessary
  • Over a short distance

This exception does not apply to children under 3 years old. You cannot take children under 3 in a vehicle without a seat belt or the correct child car seat (except in a taxi or minicab).

No room for a third child seat

If there are two occupied child car seats in the rear but not enough room fit a third one, a child over 3 years can sit in the rear using the car's seat belt instead of a child car seat. However, children under 3 years must be in a child car seat, so if there is no room for a third child seat in the rear, the child must travel in the front seat with the correct child seat.

Vehicles not fitted with seat belts

Children under 3 years must be in a child car seat. Therefore, they cannot travel in a vehicle that does not have seat belts.

A child over 3 years can travel unrestrained in the rear of a vehicle that does not have seat belts.

 

Children over 1.35 metres tall, or who are 12 or 13 years old

In the Front Seat

The adult seat belt MUST be worn if available.

In the Rear Seat

The adult seat belt MUST be worn if available.

It is the driver's legal responsibility to ensure that the child is correctly restrained.

 

Passengers over 14 years old

When travelling in the front or rear seat, an adult seat belt MUST be worn if available. It is the responsibility of the individual passenger to ensure that they are wearing their seat belt.

Summary of seat belt and child restraint laws for cars, taxis, private hire cars, vans and other goods vehicles

PersonFront seatRear seatWho is responsible?
Driver Seat belt must be worn if fitted   Driver
Child up to three years of age Correct child restraint must be used The correct child restraint must be used. If one is not available in a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle, the child may travel unrestrained. Driver
Child from third birthday up to 135cms in height (approx 4'5") or 12th birthday, whichever is reached first Correct child restraint must be used

Where seat belts are fitted, the correct child restraint must be used.

The child must use an adult belt in the back seat if the correct child restraint is not available either:

    • In a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle
    • For a short distance in an unexpected necessity
    • If two occupied child restraints prevent fitting of a third.

A child three years and over may travel unrestrained in the back seat of a vehicle if seat belts are not fitted in the rear.

Driver
Child 12 or 13, or over 135 cm (approx 4' 5") in height Seat belt must be worn if fitted Seat belt must be worn if fitted Driver
Passengers aged 14 years and over Seat belt must be worn if fitted Seat belt must be worn if fitted Passenger

 

Legal Penalties

The fixed penalty for failing to wear a seat belt as a driver or passenger is a £100 fine. If the case is taken to court, you could face a fine of up to £500.

As a driver, if you are convicted of failing to ensure that a child passenger is using an appropriate child car seat or wearing a seat belt according to the legal requirements described above, the fixed penalty is a £100 fine. If the case is taken to court, you could face a fine of up to £500.

In addition to the legal penalties, failure to wear a seat belt or failure to ensure that a child passenger uses an appropriate child car seat or wears a seat belt according to the legal requirements described above, could affect any claims against your motor insurance cover.

You could also face civil proceedings for damages, if (for example) you failed to safely carry someone else's child.

But, of course, the most serious penalty of all could be that you or a passenger loses their life!