With over 50 years’ experience in child car seat safety, Britax Römer offers a digestible overview to child car seat safety regulations:
Understanding British law
Under British law, children must use a child car seat until they are 12 years old or they are 135cm (4 foot 5 inches) tall, whichever comes first.
Two regulations – United Nations (UN) regulations R44 and R129 (the latter also referred to as i-Size) – apply to car seats in the UK. These currently run side by side. R44 will, however, be slowly phased out. This can be confusing for parents and carers, but it is important to stress that both regulations meet legal standards.
In addition, however, i-Size seats are tested for side impact protection. Parents and carers can choose the car seat based on weight (R44) or height (R129 ‘i-Size’) – see Table 1. Parents and carers need to change the seat before the child exceeds the upper weight or height limit shown on the orange sticker found on the seat.
Exceptions to British law
There are a few exceptions to the law. A doctor, for example, can issue an exemption certificate for children with disabilities or medical conditions. In some cases, the child may be able to use a disabled person’s seat belt or a child restraint that is designed specifically to meet their needs.
Children can travel in taxis and minicabs that do not have a child seat. They must, however, travel on a rear seat and, if they are aged 3 years or older, use a seat belt. Children who are younger than 3 years of age can travel without a seat belt in the rear, although this is not a safe option.
If there are two occupied child car seats in the rear and there is not enough room to fit a third one, a child older than 3 years of age can sit in the rear using the car’s seat belt instead of a child car seat. Children younger than 3 years of age must, however, travel in a child car seat. If there is no room for a third child seat in the rear, the child must travel in the front seat with the correct child seat. The seat should be pushed as far back as possible. Parents and carers should remember that it is illegal to carry a child in a rear-facing seat with an active airbag in the front.
If an appropriate child car seat is not available, a child older than 3 years of age can use an adult seat belt if all of the following apply: the journey is unexpected, the journey is necessary, the journey is over a short distance.
This exception does not apply to children younger than 3 years old. Parents and carers cannot take children younger than 3 years of age in a vehicle without a seat belt or the correct child car seat, except in a taxi or minicab.
Children younger than 3 years of age must travel in a child car seat. This means they cannot travel in a vehicle that is not fitted with seat belts. Children older than 3 years of age can travel unrestrained in the rear of a vehicle that does not have seat belts. This applies only to vehicles that were originally manufactured without seat belts.