What are the laws on child booster and car seats in the UK?

This week at Direct4Baby, we’re discussing the laws and regulations around children’s boosters and car seats in the UK. It can be a little daunting as a parent to know where you and your infant fit within these regulations, as each type of car seat comes with its own set of requirements and limitations. In the UK, using a car seat is a legal requirement from birth until your child is 125cm tall (4ft 4) or 12 years of age (whichever comes first), so it is important for our readers to fully understand both the differences between boosters and car seats and what to look for when choosing the right seat. To make things easier for you, in this blog post, we’ve pulled together everything you may need to know about the different regulations, to make sure parents are correctly securing their child with the best possible protection - and to avoid breaking the law. Keep reading Direct4Baby’s complete guide to UK car seat laws to make sure you can confidently make the best decision for both you and your little one. Note: With the last changes to laws relating to booster and car seats changing just two years ago (2017), it’s important to stay up to date. If you’re unsure at all, then visit the Gov.uk website to check the latest legislation.

What is the current UK law on booster seats?booster seat laws UK

The UK laws surrounding booster seats can be confusing to a parent. Previous laws allowed manufacturers to manufacture booster seats for children weighing as little as 15kg (typically 2-4 year-olds). However, growing safety concerns called for these regulations to be revisited, as older models were seen as unsafe for younger children in the event of an accident. As of 2017, new booster seat laws prevent manufacturers from creating these older models and instead, all new-to-market booster seats are only approved for children weighing more than 22kg or children that meet the minimum height requirement of 125cm. It’s worth noting that new booster rules only apply to brand new products entering the booster seat market as of 2017, but if you’re currently using an older booster seat model (pre-2017) approved under the old law, then these can still be used as long as your child is three-years or older and weighs more than 15kg - as if this is the case then they still meet existing safety standards. Parents who do choose to continue to use their old boosters in this way will not be breaking the law despite the 2017 law change. However, the new model highback boosters are recommended by Direct4Baby as a safer alternative, as they feature a variety of adjustable elements that can be amended as your child grows. The new models also feature deep wings that offer added side protection for your child if your car is involved in an accident and hit from the side.

At what age can a child use a backless booster seat?

The age of a child that can use a backless booster seat is measured in two groups: Group 2: four years to six years, or 15kg to 25kg (33lb to 55lb) Group 3: six years to 12 years, or 22kg to 36kg (48lb to 79lb) Booster seats are designed purposely for children who have outgrown their forward-facing seat limits and still need a measure of car safety whilst driving. Though, there is no exact age recommendation for when a child should change from a car seat to a backless booster, as children can vary substantially in height and weight. For a general guideline to follow, the booster seat minimum regulations are approximate to the size of a 6-year-old child. So, if your child is of average height and weight for their age, then any age between 6-to-12 years of age is suitable for the use of new booster seats, until they can comfortably fit in a vehicle seat belt without a boost. If you’re unsure whether or not your child has outgrown their forward-facing seat and is ready for a booster, ask yourself these simple questions as a general rule of thumb:
  • Does your child reach the top weight or height for his seat?
  • Are your child's shoulders resting above the top harness fitting?
  • Are the top of your child's ears reaching the top of the car seat?
Take a look at Direct4Baby’s range of children’s booster seats, for simple grab-and-go cushions, themed backless boosters, button booster seats and more.

UK laws on Car Seats

Highback car seats are designed specifically for smaller children who are yet to meet the booster seat requirements under the lastest laws in practice. Choosing the right car seat for your children can be quite a daunting task, as there are a variety of options to choose from and safety features to consider. UK car seats are divided up into three main groups, depending on your baby or child’s age and weight. These groups are known as R44 safety standards and are grouped up as follows:
  • group 0+ – rear-facing car seats suitable for babies aged up to about 15 months or who weigh up to 13 kg (29lb); some can be clipped on to a pushchair frame and are known as travel systems. UK laws state that all babies under 9kg, must sit in a rear-facing car seat.
  • group 1 – forward-facing seats suitable for children who weigh 9-18kg (20-40lb) or who are aged from about 9 months to 4 years.
  • group 2/3 – high-backed booster seats suitable for children who weigh 15-36kg (33lb-5st 9lb) or are aged from about 4 to 11 years.

What are i-Size car seats?

Another measure used to determine whether a car seat is law-abiding and safe for your child is through height. i-Size car seats take into account a child’s height instead of weight to determine the correct fit for a child. The i-Size seats do not replace the weight-based car seats, instead, they offer an alternative choice when picking the perfect seat for your little one. Aside from laws and regulations based on your child’s height, another reason to choose a height-based car seat is for ease. It’s easier for parents to monitor a baby’s height with a tape measure and appropriately upgrade the car seat when required - as opposed to regularly weighing your child as they grow. The i-Size fit was created to abide by an EU safety regulation and Direct4Baby’s range of i-Size car seats are designed to fit seamlessly into most cars, to provide better protection in the event of an accident. It is important to know that when using an i-Size car seat, babies must travel in the recommended rear-facing position until they are 15 months old. If you’re unsure and are looking for some expert advice, then use our chat function or give us a call to discuss your car seat requirements and we can match you with the right product. Browse Direct4Baby’s range of Group 0, Group 1, Group 2 and i-Size car seats

Other Car Seat Guidelines:

Whilst we’ve touched upon the current UK laws surrounding both booster and car seats, there’s still a few things to consider before you drive off. Here at Direct4Baby, we’re asked these questions all the time, so wanted to answer a few of them here for you.

What’s the safest position for a car seat? Front seat or back seat?what to look for when buying a car seat

Whilst there are no hard-and-fast rules as of late to determine where a car seat should be placed. Of course, the safest place will be unique to the make and model of your car seat, and also the make and model of your car. However, generally speaking, the safest place to put your child’s car seat is in the center of the back seat, away from passenger door airbags. Most parents tend to place their car seats in the adjacent side rear, so they can keep a close eye on their child through mirrors. However, according to a latest study published in Pediatrics, results showed that for children newborn to 3 years old, sitting in the centre rear position is 43% safer than side positions. It’s also worth ensuring that you know how to properly fit the car seat ahead of driving. At Direct4Baby’s flagship store in Lancashire, we offer a “Sit Safe, Drive Safe” free installation policy, where one of our fully qualified car seat installers will be more than happy to ensure whichever car seat you purchase fits both your vehicle and child. Though, if you’re not in the area, take a few minutes out of your day to practice how to safely use your car seat and familiarise yourself with your car seat’s fittings before hitting the road - happy travelling with your little one! Take a look at Direct4Baby’s complete range of UK Child Car Seats and Boosters.