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The Law: Seat Belts and Children

When it comes to driving safety regulations, the law is there to protect you, those you transport, and other road users. No matter whether you are a relative, friend, carer or volunteer, it is important that you understand the law regarding carrying children in your car. In short, if there are fitted seatbelts available, they must be worn.

Failure to wear a seatbelt if one is fitted can result in a fine of up to £500.

Driving with Children

A vehicle’s driver is responsible for making sure that children under 14 years of age are appropriately restrained. You also need to ensure that they are in the correct car seat until they reach their twelfth birthday or exceed 135cm in height (whichever happens first).

Car Seats and Boosters

For under 12s or those under 135 cm tall, you can choose seats based on the child’s weight or height. Babies have to be in rear-facing seats until they are over 15 months old (height-based seats) or weigh over 9 kg (weight-based seats). It is important to buy car seats new, or from someone that you trust. If a car seat has been involved in any kind of accident, it may no longer protect your child.

Car Seat Exemptions

You should always try to ensure that a child is safely strapped into an appropriate car seat. However, they don’t have to be strapped into a booster or car seat if:

  • They are in a taxi, minibus, coach or van;
  • They are on an unexpected journey (e.g. a one-off or an emergency);
  • There is no room in the car for another car seat.

In all of these cases, children aged three or over must be in the back and strapped in.

If a child aged under 14 isn’t strapped in or in the appropriate car seat or booster, you can be fined up to £500.

Seatbelt Exemptions

There are a few exemptions to the law regarding seatbelts. If you are any of the following, you don’t need to strap in:

  • A reversing driver, or someone supervising a learner who is reversing;
  • In a police, fire or rescue vehicle;
  • A passenger in a trade vehicle investigating a fault;
  • A delivery driver travelling 50 metres or less between stops;
  • A taxi driver;
  • A person who has a medical exemption certificate from their doctor (in this case, you will also need to inform your insurer).

Cars Without Seatbelts

If your car was made without seatbelts, and you have never had them fitted (e.g. a classic car), it is illegal for you to carry children under 3. Children over 3 years old must travel in the back.

Staying abreast of law changes can be confusing but the law is there to help keep you safe. Don’t ever “not bother” to strap in; that few seconds of effort could save your life.

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