Baby and Child Car Seat Safety

  • By: The DIG for Kids
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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We all know that the roads are a hazardous place for children, but how much attention do you pay to what’s going on in your car?

According to the Office of National Statistics, child casualties increased by 3% (newborn – 15 years)to 2,060 between September 2013 and September 2014 because they were not properly restrained while travelling in cars.

Police Spot Checks

It is illegal for any child under the age of 12, who is less than 135 cm tall, to travel in a car without some kind of child car seat.

Backless Booster Seats

Backless booster seats are acceptable for children under 135cm but over 125cm in height and who weigh more than 22kg.

(Children over 12 years of age or more than 135cm tall, do not need a booster seat but like other passengers must ALWAYS wear a seatbelt. )

High Backed Booster Seats

Children under the age of 12 who are shorter than 125cm or weigh less than 22kg, who have outgrown (or do not have) the group 2 child car seat with fitted harnesses, are better supported in a high backed booster seat (known as stage 2/3 child car seat or high backed booster seat) than a backless booster seat or booster cushion. These look similar to the group 2 child car seat but use the car’s seat belt instead of an integrated harness.

Newly Marketed Booster Seats from Feb 2017

From February 2017 all newly marked “backless” booster seats have to be sold as suitable only for those children over 125cm or 22kg in weight.

The police carry out spot checks on children in cars and if they are not Securely Fitted Following The Legal Guidelines, the driver can be given an on the spot fixed penalty fine of £30 with a maximum fine of £500. For more details regarding child car seats, please check out our article on Car Seats

You can protect your children by using a properly fitted, purpose-made child car seat which meets the current safety standards and is appropriate for your child’s weight and height. Try before you buy and get a trained professional to demonstrate how to fit the seat. Most of the large motoring accessory outlets and child car seat providers have trained fitters.

When fitting a child car seat in your car, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly and allow plenty of time; it isn’t always a quick process and you will find yourself climbing all over the car, but it is worth it to have a securely fitted seat. The same applies when it comes to strapping your baby or child into the seat – make sure you check the straps and that the seatbelt locks when you give it a jerk.

And remember to ensure your child car seat is properly fitted every time you use it. Seat belts and straps have a habit of loosening when a child has been wriggling around in it for several journeys. Always buy from a recommended supplier and keep a copy of the fitting instructions in your car.

Which Seat and When?

Child seats are designed for various weights of child. Some of the age and weight ranges overlap, so you should use your own judgement following the regulations and the general guidelines, which are briefly as follows:

Baby Seats – Group 0 and 0+ (0-13 kg and/or birth-15 months)

  • If a baby is under 15 months old, they must sit in a rear-facing seat
  • Baby seats face backwards and are fitted into the front or rear of the car – note that it is always safer to put your child in the rear and that a baby seat should NEVER be used in the front where the front seat is protected with a frontal airbag
  • If your baby weighs 0-10kg, the options are; a lie-flat or ‘lateral’ baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier, or rear-facing baby seat

Baby/Child car seats – Groups 1 and 2

  • Usually for children weighing between 9-18kg (aged 9 months to about 4 years) with their own straps/harnesses
  • They can face rearwards (for babies/toddlers) or forwards (older toddlers/young children)
  • Best fitted in the back seat of your vehicle

Child Car Seats – Group 2/3

  • Usually for children over 18kg, fully supported but use adult seat belt instead of integrated harness
  • Safest used in the rear seat of the vehicle

High Backed Booster Seats – Group 2-3

  • For children shorter 125cm and under 22kg who have outgrown (or do not have) a similar child car seat
  • The high back offers more support to a child of this size than a backless booster seat
  • From February 2017 newly marketed/made backless booster seats/cushions cannot be sold as suitable for children under 125cm or 22kg

Backless Booster Seat/Booster Cushion – group 3

  • For children weighing 22-36kg, between 125cm and 135cm (approx age 6-12). These booster seats/cushions raise the child up enough so that they can use an adult seatbelt safely

Other Tips

Try not to get distracted by your children in a car. Many on-road accidents involving women are caused because they were turning round to talk to children who were playing up. If things get out of control in the car, find somewhere safe to pull over and deal with it.

What if my child is travelling in another car? Then take the seat you use out of your car and fit it into their car. Don’t be tempted to rush or not bother, even if it is a short journey.

A Checklist:

  • By law, you have to wear a seat belt if one is fitted. Children under 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat unless they are properly restrained and using the correct child booster seat. Children over the age of 12 (or taller than 135cm or 4ft 5in) can only do so if wearing an adult seatbelt.
    To learn more about the laws, see our article Car Seat Laws
  • Never place a rear-facing seat near an active frontal airbag. Forward-facing restraints should be as far back from the airbag as possible. Always check the car handbook.
  • Never modify a child car seat or seat belt to try to make it fit.
  • Check the advice in your car handbook and the advice from the child seat manufacturer. If in doubt, call the manufacturer’s helpline or speak to your local Road Safety Officer.
  • Lap and diagonal belts are safer than lap-only belts.

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