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South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership
Car seats

It is important to make sure that you get the right in-car protection for your child from the very beginning.

Official guidance on car seats, including the latest laws governing their use, can be found on the HM Government website, which you can access here.

When you leave hospital on your first journey your new born must be transported in an appropriate car seat. NEVER travel with your child on your lap or put the seat belt around you and the baby. If you were to be involved in a collision then you risk seriously harming the baby. 

How to decide on the most appropriate car seat 

There are various types and versions of child seats/restraints. Each has their own merits as each depends on the child and car – no one child seat fits everyone. As children grow, the seat must change to ensure the protection it provides is effective.

Important factors to consider when buying the correct seat restraint include weight, physical development & length of the child (age is just guidance only)

Always read the instructions!


Height-based seats

Height-based seats are known as ‘i-Size’ seats. They must be rear-facing until your child is over 15 months old. Your child can use a forward-facing child car seat when they’re over 15 months old. You must check the seat to make sure it’s suitable for the height of your child. Only EU-approved height-based child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘R129’. For more information about the benefits of 'i-Size' seats visit the Good Egg Safety guide here

Weight-based seats

The seat your child can use (and the way they must be restrained in it) depends on their weight.Only EU-approved weight-based child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘ECE R44’.

ISOFIX Seats- International Standards Organisation FIX

ISOFIX is a universal system that is becoming more common. It has been adopted by car manufacturers and all new cars should have ISOFIX anchor points. The idea is to use these anchor points to connect the seat to the car instead of using the seatbelt. This helps remove any complicated fitting or any slack whilst increasing the protection provided to the child.

Booster Cushions

Although booster cushions are still legal they are no longer being manufactured. A child has much more protection in a booster seat.  It is recommended that you use a booster seat.

Cost of seats

The cost of car seats varies massively. Bear in mind that when you go to buy a car seat that they are of a very complex design. What you see is only a small fraction. Much work goes into designing a shell that can withstand an impact from a collision whilst properly restraining a child’s body to protect it from any collision forces. Do not be tempted to buy the cheapest one, do your research. 

Second hand car seats 

If you are considering purchasing a second hand car seat, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know if the car seat has ever been involved in an accident previously?
  • How many owners has this car seat had?
  • Do you know the person you are getting the car seat from, and do you trust them?
  • Do you know if the webbing in the car seat has been damaged? Can you see any damage even if you were looking for it?
  • Are there any instructions with the child seat?


If the answer is no to any of these questions then we would strongly recommend purchasing a new car seat from a reputable retailer.

Children with disabilities

The same rules apply for children with disabilities unless a doctor says they are exempt on medical grounds. They can also use a disabled person’s seat belt or child restraint designed for their needs. Always seek specialist advice to be sure.

Car seat fitting guidance

Remember a rear-facing seat cannot be used in the front seat with an active airbag. The airbag could be deactivated if needed, although placing the child in the rear of the car is better practice. If you do deactivate the airbag, just remember to reactivate it afterwards.

Rear-facing seats provides greater protection for the baby’s head, neck and back, should the vehicle be involved in a collision.

It is ALWAYS recommended that professional advice is sought on purchasing the correct child restraint and on its correct fitting. There are colour guides on all child seats for guidance on the correct fitting. Keep the fitting instructions so that you can check that your seat is correctly fitted each time you use it.

Ensure when fitting a child restraint in the car that the seat does not sit onto the seatbelt buckle, known as 'buckle crunch'. Do not lift the seat up with towels etc.

Child restraints should not be fitted to seat in a car that is sideways.

For children with long legs but who ahve not reached the minimum weight a combination seat may be helpful. A leg injury is less likely to be as serious as a neck or spinal injury.

If it is not possible to fit three child seats in the rear of the car then one car seat can be used in the front seat (if possible). Remember to think about the active airbag. If this is not possible then the eldest child can sit in the rear using an adult seatbelt. However this does not  apply if the eldest child is under 3 years old.

A common problem between parents is that their children wriggle and moan about their car seats. Check the harnesses that they are not too tight or rubbing. Often it may be due to the seat being uncomfortable, so a bit of readjusting may solve this. Also double check with a reputable retailer that the car seat is still appropriate for your child as it may be that they have out-grown it. Encourage any good behaviour by children in the car.

Where a harness system is being used, it needs to be two fingers tight. The five-point harness systems utilise five attachment points which consist of: two at the shoulders, two at the hips and one at the crotch. Bear in mind the amount of clothing the child is wearing may mean that the harness needs adjusting. Regularly check the shoulder straps as your baby grows and to accommodate for different clothing at different times of the year.

Watch this video from Good Egg Safety about the common mistakes when securing a car seat using a seatbelt.


Top Tips!

Lock it – remember to activate the child locks so that your child cannot open the door.

Loose items – objects can fly about in a collision. Keep all loose items secure in the glove box, boot or behind a barrier. Even a dog can increase in weight in a collision; therefore, we suggest a dog harness for the car. In a collision at 30mph, a box of tissues would hit your child with the same force as a house brick!

Replace the seat – if a child car seat has been involved in a collision Ensure that you replace the child seat immediately. You may not be able to see any damage but it could be unsafe. Therefore, in the event of another collision your child may not have the full protection that the seat is meant to provide. Should you have any issues with your insurance company replacing the car seat following a collision this webpage may help.

Empty car seat – if there is a child seat in the car it should be strapped in even if there is no child in the seat because if the vehicle were to be involved in a collision the seat would still fly forward. 

Taxis and Minibuses

Children under 3: They must have an appropriate child restraint for both the front and rear of the car. If no appropriate child restraint is available then the child can be transported in the rear ONLY, unrestrained.

Children aged 3 -12 or under 135cm in height must have an appropriate child restraint for both the front and rear of the car. If no appropriate child restraint is available then the child can be transported in the rear ONLY using the adult seatbelt.

Children aged 12 years and above or over 135cm in height must use the adult seatbelt in both the front and rear of the vehicle.

Adults (14 and above) must use the adult seatbelt in both front and rear of the vehicle.

Please note: Minibus drivers and companies do not have to provide child car seats. You must provide your own if you want to make sure a child has one.


Best practice

Sit children in the back where they are the safest. Children must use the correct child seat wherever they sit in the car. The best seat would be the rear middle seat as it is away from the sides of a car. Then the seat behind the passenger as it will usually be next to the kerb, it is safer for the child getting out. Remember a rear-facing child seat cannot be in the front seat with an active airbag and if it is a forward-facing child seat move the seat back as far as you can.

Praise your child. Always encourage all good car behaviour such as not wriggling out of seat belts or harnesses, not distracting the driver and not playing with the locks.

Teach your child what to do. Tell them never to put their arms, legs or head out of the window even if the car is not moving. Never allow a child to be left alone, unsupervised in a parked car even if the engine is switched off. They may release the hand break, burn themselves with the cigarette lighter or get locked in. Even if the child is asleep, it is always safer to take them with you.

Official guidance on car seats, including the latest laws governing their use, can be found on the HM Government website, which you can access here.

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