Car seats

Child Car Seats FACT SHEET

Did You Know?

  • Child car seats that were manufactured before 1995 are no longer legal for use.
  • Children must use a child’s car seat until they are 135cm tall or 12 years old, whichever is soonest.
  • Not all car seats fit all cars – be sure you are buying a compatible seat before handing over your money!
  • You should choose a child’s car seat based upon their weight or height and not their age.


How To Buy Safely

  • Check that the seat is suitable for your car. The shape of the seat, the length of the seat belts and the position of belt anchorage points will vary. The manufacturer and the retailer can advise on this.
  • Choose a retailer which is knowledgeable and will demonstrate how to fit the seat. Avoid buying by mail order or over the internet unless you are certain it will fit your car properly.
  • Consider what your priorities are. Is it that the product must be easy to use, or is it more important for it to be a seat that can grow with your child?
  • Only EU-approved child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle. Check that the seat meets the latest safety standard. Look for ECE R44:04 or R129 which should be marked on the seat. However, not all Isofix seats fit all Isofix cars so check with the seat manufacturer or retailer before you buy.
  • i-Size seats comply with the latest car seat safety standard ECE Regulation 129 but require Isofix connection.  These seats offer more protection as R129 takes into account side impact collisions whereas the older standard R44 does not.  You can recognise an i-Size seat from this logo:
  • We recommend you use a rear facing seat for as long as possible and at least until your child weighs 9kg, or reaches 15 months if using an i-Size seat. 
  • If you’re buying a seat for an older child we strongly recommend you avoid backless boosters as they simply don’t offer the same protection as other seats.
  • Only buy a second hand car seat if you can be certain about its history. If it was in an accident there may be hidden damage that could render it ineffective. Having a copy of the instructions is important too so you can fix the seat to the car safely.
  • If you are buying online check the sellers rating or reviews and their location. Goods sold online may well be cheaper but beware of inferior or even fake products. The picture and description may say it’s a brand you recognise, but what is delivered could be something different. Make sure the goods you receive match what was advertised online – if they don’t, contact the website and seller. Sites like eBay have teams dedicated to resolving cases where the sent item doesn’t match what was advertised. The most important thing is to make sure your purchase doesn’t put your child at risk!

How To Set Up Safely

  • It’s generally safer to fit a child’s car seat in the rear of the car rather than the front.
  • If you fit a rear-facing seat in the front of a car you MUST ensure the front airbag is deactivated.  To do this consult your car’s manual.
  • If fitting a child’s seat in the front of a car the car seat should be positioned as far back as it will go.
  • If you take a child car seat out of the car make sure it’s fitted properly every time it’s put back in.  If it stays in the car all the time check it regularly to make sure it’s securely fitted.
  • Police and Trading Standards checks have found the majority of car seats are fitted incorrectly, check the instructions. If you don’t have instructions these can probably be found on the internet.

How To Use Safely

  • There are three common types of child car seats; those with an integral harness, seats with an impact shield and booster seats/cushions.
  • If using a seat with an integral harness make sure the top of the harness is about 2cm below the shoulder of a child in a rear facing seat and 2 cm above the shoulder of a child in a forward facing seat; also the harness should be quite tight so that only two fingers can fit between the child’s chest and harness.
  • If using a booster seat the seat belt should be worn as tightly as possible with the lap belt going from hip to hip (rather than over the tummy) and the diagonal belt should rest on the child’s shoulder rather than their neck.
  • Remember that the clothing your child wears will affect the fit of the harness so check each time you use the seat.
  • Avoid dressing your child in a thick coat or bodysuit when using a car seat as this will reduce the effectiveness of the seat’s harness.
  • We recommend you limit the time your child spends in their car seat particularly when they are new-born.  Taking regular breaks will also help keep the driver alert!

Anything else you should know

The law regarding the sale of backless booster seats changed in March 2017.  Under new EU wide regulations, manufacturers are not allowed to introduce new backless booster seats (booster cushions) for children weighing less than 22kg or shorter than 125cm.

These seats are unsuitable for small children and offer limited protection in the event of a collision because the child is not held securely by the adult seatbelt across their body. New models of backless booster cushions must be clearly labelled as only suitable for children over 125cm in height and 22kg in weight. The new rules don’t affect existing models of seats or cushions and it doesn’t mean that they are illegal so parents who already own and use backless boosters will still be permitted to use them. However, a recent study has indicated that 66% of parents with children under the age of 12 do not know the current laws about child car seats and these changes may encourage parents to consider checking how their child travels.

Industry safety tests  also disturbingly indicate that 8 out of 10 parents install child car seats incorrectly, when using a seat belt while 94% of parents use ISOFIX correctly.

Research in Sweden has shown that rear-facing child car seats can offer up to 75% better protection in the event of an accident.