Child car safety


Summary of the Seat Belt Laws for Cars, Taxis and Private Hire Cars

Driver must wear seat belt.

Children under 3 years old must be in correct child restraint in front or rear seat. May travel unrestrained in taxi if seat not available.

Children age 3 and above, until they either reach 12th birthday or 135 cm in height, must use correct child restraint when travelling in front or rear. Exception where correct restraint not available then must use adult belt in three scenarios:

– in a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle ;

– for a short distance for reason of unexpected necessity;

– two occupied child restraints prevent fitment of a third.

In addition, a child 3 and over may travel unrestrained in the rear seat of a vehicle if seat belts are not available.

Child over 135 cm or 12 to 13 years must wear seat belt front or rear if available.
14 years or over is an adult and must wear seat belt if available.

All of these rules are the driver’s responsibility, except for passengers 14 years and over.

More Passengers than Seat Belts

If there are not enough seat belts or child restraints in the car for all the passengers, then some may legally travel in the rear of the vehicle without wearing a seat belt. This may be legal, but it is not safe. Between 8 and 15 front seat occupants are killed every year by unbelted rear seat passengers flying forward in an accident.

The safest option is to only carry the same number of passengers as there are seat belts. If necessary, use two cars or make two journeys for the trip.
If you must carry a passenger for whom there is no seat belt, it is better for the heaviest passengers to wear a seat belt, because they would cause more severe injuries to other people in the car if they are thrown about in a crash.

Legal Penalties

There are penalties, but the most serious penalty of all could be that you or a passenger loses their life!

If you are convicted of failing to wear a seat belt as a driver or passenger, you could face a fine of up to £500.

As a driver, if you are convicted of failing to ensure that a child passenger is using an appropriate child restraint or wearing a seat belt according to the legal requirements described above, you could face a fine of up to £500.

In addition to the legal penalties, failure to wear a seat belt or failure to ensure that a child passenger uses an appropriate child restraint or wears a seat belt according to the legal requirements described above, could affect any claims against your motor insurance cover.

You could also face civil proceedings for damages, if (for example) you failed to safely carry someone else’s child.

We do not presume to advise on the correct seats and fitting, but there is some very useful information at:

Child Car Safety

Department for Transport

Department for Transport (PDF leaflet)