Keeping you up to speed
Making sure that any child passengers in your car are safely restrained by seat belts and other appropriate devices is not only a legal responsibility, it is common sense – Child car seats are a must have & child safety should always be a top priority.
If you fail to protect children in your vehicle, you could face a fine of up to £500, as well as civil proceedings from other parents if their child is hurt in your car due to not being in a child seat. You could also find that your car insurance cover is invalid if proper restraints are not used, leaving you with enormous medical costs in a serious accident.
Most importantly of all, if you don’t use an appropriate child car seat with the correct seat belts and restraints, you are putting their lives in danger. If the worst were to happen, the financial penalties would be the least of your worries.
Various regulations govern child safety and the type of child seating and restraints that you must use when driving in the UK:
• Up to three years of age a child must be restrained in an appropriately anchored child seat. (However, it is not legal to use a baby seat that faces backwards in a front car seat with an airbag).
• From 3 to 12 years, a child must use a booster seat and an adult seatbelt (unless they are over 1.35 metres in height).
• Over 12 years old, a child must use an adult seat belt at all times.
In all cases, it is your responsibility, as driver, to ensure that the correct child seat is available and that the child is appropriately secured in their seat – as it is you that will face a fine and prosecution if this is not the case.
Under no circumstances should you allow a passenger in your car to take a child out of its car seat and have them sitting on their lap. Children can scream and cry on a car journey, particularly if you are stuck in traffic on a motorway and unfortunately for them and you, you cannot release them from the restraint and you must try to comfort and distract them in other ways. Keep them safe, keep them in their child seat.
There are very few exceptions to the child seat laws. A child may travel unrestricted in a taxi or private hire car, or if there are two occupied child seats already in your car. You may also take a child unrestrained for a short distance for what is described as a ‘journey of unexpected necessity’. Defining this is difficult – a short dash to A&E with a child that is choking might qualify, but other circumstances may be tricky to justify.
You should also remember that while these exceptions may make you legal, they do not make the child safe, so you should always do everything possible to ensure that children are protected.
It can often be a problem to get older children to use booster seats, especially as they reach 11 or 12, as they see these as ‘for babies’. However, you should always insist, as a grumpy child is always better than a child that is at risk of serious injury or death in a car crash.