Child Car Seats and UK Law


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By Grace Hickman

on Wednesday 6 June 2018


Young girl in car seat

It’s Child Safety Week 2018 (4th – 10th June) – organised by the Child Accident Prevention Trust. The main aim of this week is to raise awareness of various risks that could lead to accidents involving children, and how we can prevent them.

At Non Fault Claims, we want to highlight the importance of using the correct car seats for children in vehicles and making sure they’re restrained properly.

An innocent mistake of not checking or overlooking it because you’re in a rush or unsure, could really mean the difference between life or death, and the difference between minor or serious, life-changing injuries.

The Importance of a Car Seat

In the UK, approximately 5000 children under the age of 16 are involved in road traffic accidents – including injuries and deaths. Many injuries are made worse because of an insecure car seat, or because the wrong one was used for the child’s height and weight.

Let’s look at some examples that show the impacts of the wrong choice of child car seat or not using one at all:

Jones v Wilkins [2001]

In this case, a two-year-old child was not secured appropriately in the car. Instead, she was sat on her mother’s lap and just had a lap belt to restrain her. The driver at-fault collided with their vehicle and caused the child to suffer injuries and paraplegia – the mother was unaware of the high risk of such an action.

When the case was analysed, it was found that the lap belt was, in fact, worse than not wearing a seatbelt at all; the actions of not appropriately restraining the child actually led to her injuries being as serious as they were.

At court, it was stated that “members of the public do not understand how dangerous such an action is”.

Hughes v Williams and Williams [2012]

Three-year-old Emma Hughes was placed in the wrong car seat. Unfortunately, this contributed towards causing her brain and spinal cord injuries in a collision with another vehicle.

Before heading out, Emma’s mother had the choice between putting Emma in a booster seat or a five-point harness child car seat. She felt that Emma looked more comfortable in the booster, so she went with this one.

Her driving was found to be flawless and the court believed her to be a responsible, caring mother, but another driver who was speeding and lost control, crashed into them.

Devastatingly, the mother had not put Emma in the correct car seat – if she had been sat in the correct one, her injuries wouldn’t have been as bad.

In both cases, although the mothers were not responsible for the accident, they were deemed 25% liable for not reducing the risk and the extent of their daughters’ injuries. Therefore, they were only rewarded 75% of the compensation amount.

Being partly at fault is known as contributory negligence.

Car Seats and The Law

When you buy a car seat for your child, there will be a complete set of instructions that you must read and follow. The seat must be fitted correctly, according to the instructions, and the child’s height and weight must be in line with the seat’s specifications.

According to the Highway Code, the regulations regarding child seats are:

  • Children must use the correct child restraint until their 12th birthday or until they are 1.35 metres tall – whatever comes first.
  • Children over the age of 12 or taller than 1.35 metres must wear a seat belt in all vehicles – it is the driver’s responsibility.
  • Adult passengers (aged 14 and over) must wear a seat belt and it is up to them to make sure they are - not the driver’s responsibility.
  • A baby seat, child booster or seat must be used if the child is below 1.35 metres and it must be fitted according to the instructions, as well as be suitable for the child’s weight.
  • Child restraints can be used in cars, vans and other goods vehicles, but must be properly fitted to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • The car seat you choose must comply with the United Nations standard, ECE regulation 44.04 or 44.03, or to the new i-size regulation, R129. Be sure to look for the ‘E’ in the circle on the orange label.

A car seat can be purchased based on the child’s height or weight, whichever you’d prefer. Be sure to get expert advice if you are not sure and always follow instructions! Even if you are in a rush or think it will be okay – it’s not worth it.

With regards to choosing the best child car seat, the RoSPA provide useful and helpful information on this.

Can you put a child seat in the front of a car?

Yes. However, it is vital that you ensure the following:

  • A baby seat that is rear-facing must not be fitted into a seat that is protected by an airbag – otherwise, this can cause serious injury or even death in an accident.
  • Only use a forward-facing car seat in the front if there is an airbag available to protect it.
  • The main front car seat must be put as far back as possible to maximise the distance between the child and the airbag, should an accident occur.
  • The seat must be fitted accordingly.
  • Children 12 years old or more, or taller than 1.35 metres, are permitted to travel in the front – but they must wear a seatbelt.

Generally, it is safer for children to travel in the back of a car, but if you wish for the child to travel in the front – be sure to follow these child car seat guidelines.

Children and Safety

We can never be too safe when it comes to children and the road – whether that’s keeping them safe inside or outside our vehicles. Child Safety Week is a fantastic way to raise awareness of this message.

There’s nothing wrong with double or triple checking the rules when it comes to children’s safety – always ask or do your research if you’re unsure!

At Non Fault Claims, we are specialists in road traffic accident compensation claims and helping with replacement cars if you’ve been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault. We can also help with child car accident injury claims.

Keep up to date with our blogs - they provide useful tips and information on staying safe on the roads! Or call us today if you require any information - we are always happy to help.

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