Parents still confused by new car seat rulesSurvey shows drivers still unclear on new law

30 October 2006

Many motorists are still confused by the new child car seat laws, a new survey has found.

The poll revealed that more than two thirds of drivers don't know the new rule that a child under 12 years old has to be a minimum of 135cm tall (about 4ft 5in) to legally wear a standard seatbelt rather than be in a car seat or booster.

More than a third also wrongly believe that no child can travel in the front seat of any vehicle. Children can travel in the front seat as long as they're properly restrained.

The new law, which came into force in September, means children up to 12 years old who are also less than 135cm (4ft 5in) tall have to sit in a car seat or booster seat while travelling in a car. If they don't the driver faces a fine of up to £500.

Exceptional circumstances

The survey, from www.motorinsurance.co.uk, also found that over half of all motorists believe that the new regulations apply to all cars that carry a child.

However, there are exceptions. These include 'emergency' (unplanned) journeys where an appropriate restraint isn't available or times when two occupied child seats in the rear mean there's no room for a third, but you need to take a third child in the back. In these cases, the child should wear an adult seat belt.  Taxis are also exempt from the rules.

Paul Cosh, Managing Director of www.motorinsurance.co.uk, said: ‘Drivers do not know which way to turn. For example, if you ask a neighbour to do the school run, they will need the correct restraints. However, if your car breaks down and you have no choice but to ask the neighbour, then the safety regulations do not apply.'

Online advice

Which?'s  article provides all the information parents need about the new law. It also includes our Best Buy cars seats - and those to avoid.

Which? also advises parents affected by the new law to remember:

  • the weight and height of a child are more important factors than age when choosing a suitable seat
  • try the seat in your car before you buy
  • the seat belt should be as tight as possible, to minimise the seat’s movement
  • watch out for buckle crunch – where the seat belt buckle is bent around the seat frame
  • don't place anything beneath the child seat to protect the car’s seats
  • never use a rearward facing child seat in front of an active airbag – it can cause severe injury
  • never buy child seats second hand
  • make sure the seat you choose fits every car it will be used in.

For more on the new law, see the Department for Transport's road safety website.