Changes in legislative provisions regarding backless booster car seats for children are due to come in to force from 1 March 2017, therefore providing a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the current position surrounding child car seats.
The basic rule is that children under the age of 12 years old, or under 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first, must use a child car seat which is suited to their height or weight. The exceptions to this rule are as follows:
1) Journeys in taxis, minicabs, coaches or buses where a child seat is not provided. In these situations, a child over the age of 3 must wear an adult seatbelt if one is available, with children under 3 travelling without a seatbelt.
2) Journeys that are “unexpected”, “necessary” and “over a short distance”. In these situations a child over the age of 3 can travel in the rear seat or a vehicle, using an adult seatbelt. A child under the age of 3 must only travel without a car seat on an unexpected journey in a licensed minicab or taxi.
3) Where there is no room for a third child seat in the back of a car. If there is no room in the back for the third child seat, a child under 3 should sit in the front of the vehicle in a child seat, whilst a child over 3 must sit in the back using an adult seatbelt.
4) Where there are no seatbelts in a vehicle. In this case, a child over 3 can travel in the back seat without a car seat or seatbelt. A child under 3 cannot travel as they need to be in a car seat.
The car seat used must be suitable for the child, based on either weight or height. In order to be sure that the car seat you are using, or proposing to use, is lawful and safe, you should seek to identify the markings which confirm it is an EU-approved seat. With height-based car seats, the mark you are looking for is a capital “E” in a circle and “R129”. With weight-based seats, you are also looking for the capital “E” in a circle and a slightly different code: “ECE R44”.
As a driver, if you are identified as failing to ensure that a child passenger is using an appropriate child car seat, or wearing a seat belt according to the legal requirements, you may be issued with a fixed penalty fine in the sum of £100, or required to attend Court.
The New Legislative Provisions
From 1 March 2017, upon which the new legislative provision become effective, manufacturers will not be able to introduce new seats which do not have an upright back as part of the seat for children under the weight of 22kgs, or the height of 125cms.
This amendment will not render existing car seats unsafe or unlawful to use if they are already been purchased. The burden is placed on the manufacturer to update their products to be in line with the new requirement(s), with the view of further improving the safety of the new products in the market place.