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Car safety seats for children

Find out about child car seat regulations and child car seat checks.

An unrestrained child can be killed in an impact at speeds as low as 5mph.

In a collision at 30mph, an unrestrained child would hit the front seat - and anyone in it - with a force of between 30 and 60 times their own body weight.

The law states that:

  • children under 3 years must use the child restraint appropriate for their weight in any vehicle (including vans and other goods vehicles) - there is only one exception: a child under 3 may travel unrestrained in the rear of a taxi if the right child restraint is not available
  • rear-facing baby seats must not be used in a seat protected by a frontal air-bag unless the air-bag has been deactivated manually or automatically
  • in vehicles where seat belts are fitted, children 3 years to 135cm (approximately 4 foot 5 inches) in height or age 12 (whichever comes first) must use the appropriate child restraint

Three exceptions allow these children to travel in the rear and use an adult seat belt:

  • in a taxi - if the right child restraint is not available
  • for a short distance in unexpected necessity, if the right child restraint is not available
  • where 2 occupied child seats in the rear prevent the fitment of a third child seat

If you need any information or guidance about child car seats please contact Vanessa Ball, email:

Buying and fitting a car safety seat for a child

When travelling in a car, children should wear a suitable restraint for their size and age.

In an accident an unrestrained child in the back seat of a car can catapult between the driver and front seat passenger, and be thrown through the windscreen. They could also injure other passengers.

Never use a rear-facing child seat in the front passenger seat if your car has a passenger airbag.

Always use the restraints and, as your child grows older, make sure that the first thing they do when they get in the car is to put on their restraint.

If the car is involved in an accident, replace the seat immediately.

Buying a car seat

Child restraints are expensive and you should choose with care. Never rush into a decision about buying the seat.

Never buy a second hand car seat:

  • the seat could have been involved in an accident
  • important safety components may be missing
  • the seat may not fit correctly in your car
  • the manufacturers fitting instructions may be missing

Fitting the car seat

Make sure you fit the seat correctly, wrongly fitted car seats are of little use in an accident.

Try to buy your seat from a supplier who will fit it correctly.

Ideally try the seat in your car before you buy or ensure that the seat can be returned if it does not fit correctly.

Remember to adjust the straps of the seat every time you put your child in the car. Summer clothing is much thinner than a thick winter coat.

Always use the crotch strap as a child may 'submarine' on impact, without the crotch strap fastened they may be hanged on the cross straps.