One of the biggest stresses about having a child is the meticulous planning you have to do to get anywhere with them. It is important to stick to the rules though and to follow the guidelines which are put in place for their safety.

The guidelines on the government’s website can be a bit too much to get your head around sometimes so here is a simple summary of the UK’s guidelines to answer any questions you might have about the rules on car seats.

Using a Child Car Seat or Booster Seat

How old does a child have to be to not have a car seat?

The guidelines state that your child must wear a car seat until they are either 12 years old or 135cm tall (that’s around 4 feet and 5 inches), whichever comes first, though childcarseats.org suggest waiting until they are 150cm (4 feet and 9 inches).

What types of car seats are there?

You can buy height-based seats or weight-based seats. Height-based (or ‘i-Size’) seats must be rear-facing until your child is 15 months old. To use a car seat in the UK it must be EU-approved. EU-approved height-based car seats will have a label with a capital ‘E’ on them in a circle and ‘R129’ on them.

A rear-facing car seat (Source: http://babystrollercarseatcombo.com)

There are a variety of weight-based seats which are grouped depending on the weight of your child. A handy table showing what types of seats are appropriate depending on your child’s weight is found below. As with height-based seats, weight-based seats must be EU-approved. These are found with a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘ECE R44’.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/child-car-seats-the-rules/using-a-child-car-seat-or-booster-seat

Unless you have a car seat which is specifically designed for lap seat belts or which is fit using ISOFIX anchor points, you can only use a child car seat if your seat belts have a diagonal strap. If you are fitting a rear facing baby seat in a front seat you must deactivate any front airbags to avoid any incidents.

The rules are the same for vans as they are for cars and the rules also apply to disabled children or children with medical conditions, but they can use a disabled person’s seat belt or a child restraint for their own needs. You can also get an exemption certificate from your doctor if your child’s condition makes wearing a seatbelt impossible.

A more extensive list of the types of car seats and the situations where they should be used can be found at childcarseats.org.

When a Child can Travel Without a Car Seat

Do you need a car seat on a minibus?

If your family is travelling on a minibus, you must provide your own car seat if you want to make sure that your child has one. If car seats or adult seat belts are available, then children aged 3 or over must use them. If there is no car seat or seat belt then all children must only travel in seats which are behind the driver.

What are the rules about car seats on coaches?

If you are travelling on a coach which does not have seat belts or car seats available, then it is okay for your child to travel without one.

Is it okay to not use a car seat for an unexpected journey?

For a child aged 3 or above it is also okay for them to travel without a car seat so long as they wear an adult seat belt only if the journey is unexpected, necessary and for a short distance. Children under 3 must not be taken on an unexpected journey unless the journey is in a licensed taxi or minicab and the child travels in the rear seat without a seat belt.

If there is no room for a third car seat in the back of a car the third child must travel in the front seat, in the right car seat for them.

Children under 3 are never allowed to travel in cars without seat belts, but once older than 3 children can travel in the back seat of a car with no car seat or seat belt if the car does not have one.

Recalled Car Seats

Some car seats have been recalled, if you use one of the following you need to stop using it immediately:

  • Mamas & Papas Nembus
  • Mamas & Papas Aureus
  • Mamas & Papas Group 123
  • Mamas & Papas Altai

You can call the Mamas & Papas service team on 03332 412154 or go to a Mamas & Papas store for more information and for a replacement.

Argos have also recalled the following car seats:

  • Mamas & Papas Mercury Group 1 Black
  • Mamas & Papas Mercury Group 1 Grey
  • Mamas & Papas Mercury Group 1-2-3 Black
  • Mamas & Papas Mercury Group 1-2-3 Grey
  • Mamas & Papas Mercury Group 2-3 Black

If you use one of these car seats you should stop using it immediately and take it back to Argos for a full refund.

For further information on this, you can visit http://www.childcarseats.org.uk/.