A recent RAC study has found that 84% of parents do not know the legal height a child has to be to ride in a vehicle without a car seat.

The research, which surveyed over 1,000 UK parents with children aged under 10, also revealed that 79.1% are unaware of how many different seat groups there are.

“Laws concerning child seats were updated in March last year and now several booster cushion style car seats are considered unsuitable,” said the RAC.

“It’s essential for the safety of children that parents understand what these guidelines are and choose the correct seat for their children to travel in.”

Are you up-to-date with child car seat rules? Below, we detail the most crucial regulations.

How old must my child be before they can travel without a car seat?

Children below the age of 12 must travel in a car seat unless they are at least 135cm tall. Failure to abide by this rule can result in a £500 fine.

Can I still use backless booster seats for my child?

From March 1st 2017, “all new-to-market backless booster seats are only approved for children weighing more than 22kg or taller than 125cm,” according to the RAC’s guidelines. Before this rule change, manufacturers could sell booster cushions for children who weighed as little as 15kg but increasing concerns over safety meant the law was changed.

Technically, you can still use existing booster cushions for your child using the old regulations if they were bought before the cut-off date – the new changes only affect new models sold in stores. If you are worried about the safety and legality of your car seat, check if it has a label with a capital ‘E’ in a circle on it – this indicates that it is EU approved.

What are the different types of child seat? And which one should I be using?

Each car seat is categorised by weight, size or age. Find out which one you should be using with the below bullet points:

  • Rearward-facing baby seat – For babies from birth up to 13kg (approximately 12-15 months old).
  • Forward-facing seat – For children weighing 9-18kg (approximately 9 months – 4 years old).
  • High-backed booster seat – For children weighing 15-36kg (approximately 4-11 years old).
  • Booster cushion (backless) – For children weighing 22kg+ or 125cm+ tall.

Are there any exceptions to these laws?

child car seats

The following situations are the only exceptions to the aforementioned child car seat rules:

  • When travelling in a taxi. If a driver does not provide the correct car seat, a child can still travel. They must travel in the rear and wear an adult seat belt, unless they are under the age of three, in which case they must travel without wearing a seat belt.
  • When travelling via coach or minibus. In this instance, children must travel in the rear seats of the bus if no seat belt or child seat is provided. If seat belts are fitted, children over the age of three must wear them.
  • When making an unexpected journey over a short distance, a child can use an adult seat belt.
For more information about car seats, check out the RAC’s Child Car Seat Calculator! Wondering what other regulations you may be breaking? Find out here!
You can also make your journeys more enjoyable and seamless when travelling with children by picking up our recommended car accessories for parents!