Child-seat laws in the UK were tightened up in September 2006 in an effort to save young lives. The driver is responsible for ensuring that everyone in his vehicle under the age of 14 wears a seat belt, and that all children up to 4 feet 5 inches in height, or the age of 12--whichever comes first--have the correct child seat and restraint accessories for their height or age.
The morning and afternoon school runs are the peak times for automobile accidents involving children, according to the Department for Transport (DIT), which promotes the law and road safety with its executive agencies, including the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). Even at low speeds, says the DIT, children risk injury if the child seat or restraining equipment is incorrectly fitted. So it's important children learn from an early age that wearing the seat belt or sitting in the child seat is about keeping them safe. Make the "belting up" part of the routine when getting in the car.
Getting It Right
The DIT and the DVLA provide consumer information about getting the right kind of restraints fitted for children, depending on their height, age and, especially for babies, their weight. There also are clear guidelines on where to fix the seats and restraints, including what can be fitted in the front seat--and what should not be--as well as the recommended hardware to use. For instance, rear-facing child seats must not be used in front seats with an active airbag. And for front-facing child seats, the car seat itself must be moved back as far as possible.
It's important to fit the seat to the manufacturer's instructions. Stores selling child seats and restraints usually have trained staff on hand to show drivers how to fit them properly. And try it out before you buy anything---you want to be sure.
Visitors be aware
Visitors to the UK are bound by the law, too. Car rental companies should supply child restraints for customers, but these need to be ordered ahead of time when reserving your rental. Anyone expecting family or friends on a visit from abroad should make them aware of the rules regarding proper restraints.
Exceptions to the rules
There are some exceptions to the law. For instance, if you already have two child seats in the rear of the car and there is no room for a restraint for a third one, a child aged 3 or over is allowed to sit in the back and use the adult-lap or lap-and-diagonal seat belt. Or in a taxi cab, children under 3 may travel unrestrained if there are no child restraints fitted, but children over 3 must use the adult seat belt. Or there may be medical reasons for exceptions to the law. All legal exceptions are included in the DIT information.