Stricter rules regarding the use of booster seats are expected to come into force later this year. When approved they’ll limit the use of backless booster seats to older children.
Under current UK law, all children travelling in a car must use the correct car seat until 12 years old or 135cm tall. In some European countries this height limit is 150cm.
The new booster seat rules
Under the new rules, backless booster seats will only be approved for use for children taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg. The proposal is currently under final stages of approval by the body which regulates child car seats in Europe. Approval is expected to be granted in June.
At the moment, children weighing as little as 15kg, that’s around three years old, can travel in backless booster seats. But many child car seat experts agree that this type of booster seat is unsuitable for such young children.
A small child isn’t held as securely in the seat, the adult seat belt isn’t guided across their little body in the best way, and, most importantly, a booster seat offers no protection for a child if your car’s involved in a side-impact crash.
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Backless boosters vs high-back booster seats
A backless booster seat, also known as a booster cushion, currently satisfies the legal car seats law requirement for children up to 135cm tall, and they’re temptingly cheap to buy (about £6-£30), but we don’t recommend them, especially for younger children. High-backed child car seats might be more expensive, but we’ve found they are safer, so it’s worth paying a bit more for extra protection
Which? child car seat expert, Lisa Galliers says: ‘A decent high-backed booster seat provides better protection in a front crash, as they’re designed to guide the adult seat-belt across the child’s body properly, and our crash tests prove they offer much more protection in a side-impact crash than a backless booster seat alone.’
Child car seat law – find out what else you need to know to avoid a fine
Do I need to buy a new seat?
The new additions to the child car seats regulations should come into effect in December 2016, but will only apply to any new products appearing on the market. So parents looking to buy a booster seat next year should start to see that they’re not approved for use with children under 125cm and 22kg.
STORY UPDATE 4 October 2016: the new additions to the child car seat regulations are now expected not to come into force until at least March 2017. Read our booster seats law update.
Parents who have a booster seat now will still be able to use the seat without breaking any rules. But as our video below shows, these seats offer such little protection in a side impact crash that is it really worth the risk?