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1 Jul 2020

Six common car seat misunderstandings that could compromise your child's safety

Which? experts reveal the child car seat laws you need to know
car seat laws baby rear-facing car seat

Confused by the rules for baby and child car seats? You're not the only one.

We surveyed 1,800 parents with a child under five in March 2020 and found that while many parents are clued up on certain things, there's still a lot of misinformation out there.

Below we've explained six common misunderstandings about child car seat safety that could potentially put your little ones at risk.

Head straight to ourcar seat reviews to pick out the safest one for your baby or child.

1. Seats labelled 'universal' can be safely used in all cars: FALSE

The distinctive orange label that you find on the underside of the car seat shell often has the word 'universal' on it.

So it's perhaps unsurprising that 70% of parents we surveyed this means they can be used safely in all cars.

But this is not always the case and it's no guarantee that the car seat will fit into your car.

You should always double-check (with the retailer or manufacturer) that the model of car seat you wish to buy will fit in your car.

Read our guide onhow to get a child car seat that fits your car.

universal car seat label

2. Backless booster seats offer the same crash protection as high-back booster seats: FALSE

It's great to see that two thirds of parents we surveyed knew that backless booster seats do not offer the same crash protection as high-back booster seats.

All the Which? car seat crash tests include a side impact collision that's the equivalent to two vehicles crashing at 30mph.

Our results have demonstrated time and again how important it is to use a high-back booster seat with wings to keep your child safe in these types of collisions.

What's the law on booster seats?Read our guide to find out.

3. Group 0+ car seats need to be swapped for a Group 1 car seat on your child's first birthday: FALSE

Babies grow at different rates, so whether you choose a car seat based on their weight or their height, their age should not come into your decision on when to move up to the next car seat size.

Typically, group 0+ car seats last until around 13kg, while i-Size baby car seats may have an upper height limit of 75cm to 83cm.

For both group 0+ and i-Size baby your child should reach the height or weight threshold at 15 months old at the earliest - in fact it's a legal requirement for all i-Size seats to keep your baby rear-facing until they're 15 months.

So unless you've got a particularly big baby, your child's first birthday is not the safest indicator to move to the next car seat, and ideally, you should keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible.

Discover the best rear-facing car seats for 2020.

4. Parents can be fined if they don't use a car seat for their own young children in their car: TRUE

Nine in 10 parents are clued up on the potential £60 fine and three licence points that they could face if their child is not in an appropriate car seat.

UK law states that children must use a child car seat until they're 12 years old or 135cm/4ft 5in tall, whichever comes first.

However, safety experts recommend that you use a child car seat for all children under 150cm/4ft 11in.

Read our guide to child car seat laws for more information.

mother strapping baby into car seat

5. Parents can be fined if they don't use a car seat for someone else's young children in their car: TRUE

If you're transporting a child that isn't yours in your car, you still need to put them into a car seat.

An impressive 84% of parents know this.

It means that if you're giving your child's friend a lift, you'll need to make sure that their parent has either moved their car seat into your car, or they fit into a car seat you already own.

The one exception is if there is no room for a child seat in the car. For example, when you're transporting three children, two are in child restraints on the two passenger car seats and there is no room for a third car seat in the middle space.

parents travelling in taxi with child

6. Parents can be fined if they don't use a car seat for their own young children in a taxi: FALSE

While it's a legal requirement to use a car seat if you're driving the vehicle, the same doesn't apply if you're travelling in a taxi.

However, 57% of parents thought they would be fined if their baby wasn't strapped into a car seat.

The rules state that children under three can travel without a child's car seat or seat belt, but only in a rear seat (while being held by an adult on their lap).

Children aged three or older can travel in a rear seat without a child car seat if they wear an adult seat belt.

How well do you know child car seat laws? Take our quiz to find out.