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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Fitting and using child car seats in your vehicle

If your child uses a child's car seat, the seat must be fitted properly in your vehicle. Find out about fitting a child's car seat in different types of vehicles and the few exceptions where a child can travel without one.

Tips for fitting a child car seat in your vehicle

Always check that your child's car seat is fitted correctly every time you travel and allow time to get your child comfortably strapped in.

When fitting your child's car seat in your vehicle, make sure:

  • you follow the manufacturer's instructions
  • your child's seat is placed tightly in the adult seat and the seat belt passes through all the correct slots
  • the adult seat belt buckle isn't bent over or resting on the frame of your child's seat
  • you don't change the adult seat belt or your child's seat to make it fit

Using your child's car seat in the front seat

You can use your child's car seat in the front seat of a vehicle, if it fits. This includes two-seaters or convertibles with the top down.

You must deactivate any frontal airbags before fitting a rear-facing baby seat. Check the manufacturer's instructions for advice on how to do this.

Fitting your child's car seat to ISOFix attachment points

Some new cars have ISOFix attachment points. You can install some car seats using these attachment points instead of the adult seat belt. Using the ISOFix system is easier and quicker to install and helps to minimise the risk of fitting your child's seat incorrectly.

Check with the manufacturer about whether a particular car seat will fit a car with ISOFix points.

Car seats in a seat with only a lap belt

If a seat only has a lap belt, you’ll still need to fit your child's car seat. However, it's difficult to find a child's car seat that can be used with just a lap belt. Most seats can only be used with a belt that has a diagonal strap as well.

Talk to a specialist supplier or consider fitting a lap and diagonal belt in the vehicle.

Cars with integral child-sized seats

Some cars have their own (integral) child-sized seats that are only suitable for children. If the seat is approved for use instead of a child's car seat, it will have a label with an "E" in a circle. The label will also show the weight of the child that it’s approved for - usually above 15 kilogrammes.

If the child-sized seat isn’t approved, your child will need to use their car seat. If their car seat doesn't fit, your child can't use the vehicle's child-sized seat.

If your vehicle has side-facing seats

Child car seats must not be used in side-facing seats. For this reason, a child who needs to use a child's seat can't travel in a sideways-facing seat. This is because seat belts in side-facing seats don't protect passengers in a crash and can cause serious injuries.

If your vehicle has no seat belts

If your vehicle has no seat belts, a child over three years old can travel in the rear seat without their car seat.

Children under three must not travel in cars, vans or goods vehicles without a seat belt or their car seat.

Travelling with your child in minibuses

In minibuses under 2.54 tonnes unladen weight, children aged three and older must use the correct car seat for their weight, if available. However, it's not compulsory for the driver or anyone else to provide the child's car seat.

If the child's car seat isn’t available or doesn't fit, children aged three and older must use the adult seat belt. Children under three years don't have to use an adult belt and can travel unrestrained.

When your child can travel without a car seat

There are a few circumstances where your child can travel without a car seat if one isn't available.

Taxis and private hire vehicles (minicabs)

In a licensed taxi or licensed private hire vehicle (minicab), children aged:

  • under three can travel without a child's car seat or seat belt, but only on the rear seat
  • three years or older can travel without a child's car seat but they must wear an adult seat belt

Unexpected but necessary journeys over a short distance

If the correct child seat isn't available, a child over three years old can use the adult belt for an unexpected but necessary journey over a short distance. This doesn't apply to a regular school run or planned journey.

You must not take children under three in a vehicle without a seat belt or the correct child car seat.

No room for a third child seat in the rear

If a third child can't sit with their child seat in a front seat, they may travel in the rear seat using an adult belt. 

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