When was the last time you checked the U.K. car seat laws? These laws have probably changed since the last time you had a child in the car seat age.
In this article, you will learn more about the U.K. car seat laws, the different types of car seats, and at when your baby graduates to a forward facing car seat age U.K.
U.K. car seat law
In the U.K., car seats are a legal requirement. The law states that children under the age of 12 or under 150cm (either comes first) should use a car seat. And, they can only travel in the back seat.
But, to be on the safe side, use a car seat with children under the height of 150cm. That is the legal condition in most E.U. countries, including France, Germany, and Ireland.
You will not land in trouble for using a seatbelt with a kid 12 years or younger who is taller than 135cm.
The law also dictates the type of car seat you should use. In the U.K., you can only use car seats approved in the E.U. That is to say – you cannot use a car seat approved in other countries, including the U.S.
Using the wrong car seat not only breaks the law but also risks the life of your child.
Exceptions To The Car Seat Laws
The only situations where the car seat laws do not apply are:
- In taxis
Including rideshare vehicles such as Uber, kids under the age of three can travel without a car seat or seatbelt, but only in the rear seat. Also, kids over the age of three can travel without a car seat, but only in the back seat secured with the adult seatbelt.
- When There’s No Room For A Third Car Seat In The Rear
With two car seats in the back, often there’s no room for a third. If the third child is older than three, they can travel in the forward facing car seat, but with the appropriate car seat. Or, in the back with an adult seatbelt.
If the third child is less than three years, they can’t travel in the front seat unless the right car seat is used.
Types Of Car Seats
When choosing a car seat for your child, you can consider the weight or the height:
Weight-based car seats
Manufacturers design car seats based on the weight of the child the seat should protect. By weight, car seats fall into three categories. These categories conform to the U.N.’s safety regulations, and they cover children from birth up to 12 years.
Generally, a 12-year or 135cm tall kid is about 36kg. However, even if your child’s weight is more 36kg but shorter than 135cm, it is advisable to use a car seat.
Height-Based Car Seats
The height-based car seats conform to the i-Size regulations introduced in the U.K. in 2015. However, to use an i-Size car seat, your car should have Isofix connectors.
Isofix is an internationally recognized car seat standardizing system. Most new cars feature this system, which allows the easy installation and securing of an i-Size car seat. I-Size car seats have Isofix connectors at the base, which you connect to the Isofix anchor points in your vehicle.
i-Size car seats allow your baby to travel in the rear-facing position up to the recommended age of 15 months. In fact, some i-Size car seats accommodate the rear-facing position until the child is as old as four years.
All that said, the height-based car seats are not a substitute for the conventional weight-based car seat regulation. Height-based car seats only offer a more convenient alternative when choosing the right car seat.
Note that moving a child to the higher ca seat category before they reach the maximum height or weight could lead to severe injuries during a crash. Besides, it is against the law to use the wrong car seat.
Rear-Facing Seats – For Infants And Toddlers
Your child should ride in a rear-facing car seat at least until the age of 15 months. Most rear-facing car seats can accommodate kids up to 2 years. However, you should follow the manufacturer’s height or weight limit.
Types of rear-facing car seats
You can choose one of the following car seats for tour infant
- Rear-facing only
This type of car seat is small and has a weight limit between 9 and 15kg. Mostly, they come with a detachable base that you secure to your vehicle. They have carrying handles, which make them convenient for both the car and walking.
- Convertible car seat
This type of car seat can be converted into a forward-facing when your child comes of age. Therefore, you can use this car seat for longer. Another advantage is that they have a higher rear-facing weight limit of up to 22kg. Also, they have a more secure 5-point harness – they attach at the hips, shoulders, and between the legs.
However, they do not have carrying handles, which is another way of saying you should not use them outside your vehicle.
- 3-in-1 car seats
A 3-in-1 car seat works rear-facing, front-facing, and as a booster seat. Therefore, you can use this seat all the way up to the age of 12 and older.
Unfortunately, these car seats are heavier and bigger. So, first, you have to make sure this seat can fit in your car in the rear-facing position.
Front Facing Seats – For Toddlers And Preschoolers
After reaching the weight or height limit of the rear-facing seat, your child needs a forward facing car seat. According to the law, the front facing car seat age U.K. is 15 months. However, you can use the rear-facing car seat for as long as possible.
However, for kids below the age of 4, you should use a front facing car seat with a harness.
Types of front facing car seats include:
- Convertible seats: Car seats that work both as rear-facing and front-facing.
- Combination seats with harness: The harness should be used until the child weighs over 36kg.
- Travel vest: These are alternatives to the traditional front-facing seat that can be used by children who weigh as much as 75kg. These vests are convenient for use on the vehicle seat with only the lap seatbelt. Also, they are recommended when your kid weighs more than the limit of a car seat.
Booster Seats – For School-Going Children
After outgrowing the forward facing car seat, your child will need a booster seat. Typically, booster seats are for kids between the ages of 8 and 12. Or, kids who are taller than 135 cm, who have not reached the car seat age limit of 12 years.
Your child should use the booster seat until the car’s seat belt can fit properly. Generally, the car seat belt will not fit well until the age of 11.
So, how do you know your child has graduated from a car seat to a booster seat?
- If the shoulders reach above the top harness slots of the car seat
- Or, the top of their ears reaches the top of the seat
- Or, they reach the weight or height limits listed by the manufacturer on the car seat
A booster seat raises your child so that the shoulder and lap seatbelt can properly fit over your child’s body. Unlike car seats, most booster seats do not have connectors to secure them to the seat of your vehicles. They properly rest on the vehicle’s seat once you fasten the seatbelt over your child.
The two primary categories to choose from are backless and high-back boosters
The bottom line
It is vital to use the right car seat for your child. Otherwise, you risk breaking the law, or worse – severe injuries in case of an accident.
In the U.K., the suitable child car seat:
- Is E.U. approved, it follows regulations under UN R129
- Has a United Nations standard ECE Regulation 44/03 or ECE 44/04 label
- Is fitted correctly – according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- Is appropriate for the kid’s weight or height