Parents puzzled by child car seat lawsWhich? survey reveals shocking statistics

11 May 2014


Which? has found that parents are unclear on the laws surrounding child car seats

A shocking number of parents are unclear on the laws and recommendations surrounding child car seats, a Which? survey has found.

All parents want to keep their child safe on the road, and there are a number of laws that help ensure their safety. But our survey of more than 2,000 parents has found that parents are unclear on a number of these.

Child car seat laws

The law states that 'children must normally use a child car seat until they're 12 years old or 135cm tall.' But our survey found that only 52% of parents asked believed this statement was true, and 5% of eligible children weren't using a car seat. 

Although this is lower than when we surveyed in 2010, when 17% of children were not in a seat, it is still worrying. 

Reassuringly, 87% of parents know you will be fined if you don't use a car seat for your own children in your car, and 81% know you'll be fined if you don't use a car seat for someone else's children in your car.

If you're looking for a child car seat, see crash test results in our child car seat reviews, and watch our video guide to buying the best for your child. 

Child car seat safety

As well as the laws, there are a number of safety recommendations for using child car seats, of which many parents are unaware. Key areas of confusion are:

  • Universal car seats - 52% of parents surveyed think a seat labelled 'universal' will fit into all cars, but actually there is no such thing as a truly ‘universal’ car seat that fits in all cars. You will always need to check that a seat fits into your specific car. Find out more in our guide to choosing a child car seat.
  • Changing car seats - When you change your child from a Group 0 to Group 1 seat is dependant on factors such as their weight and height, but 26% of parents thought this is governed by age and should happen on a child's first birthday.
  • Rearward vs forward facing - 61% of parents think it's safest to have their child forward facing from nine months, when in fact, the longer you can keep them rearward facing, the better.

We were pleased to see that 52% of parents are aware that backless booster seats don't offer the same level of protection as high-backed booster seats, but 22% still thought they did.

Find out more about why backless booster seats, also called booster cushions, aren't recommended. Plus, read our advice on why children should stay rearward facing, and the car seat weight groups. 

Our survey was conducted in February 2014 and asked 1,000 parents of children aged 12 years or under about their experiences of child car seats. 

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