Children, car seats and the law…

From day one, the very beginning of our new job as parents, we took it upon ourselves to ensure our tiny newborn was snugly and safely fitted in her group 0 car seat on that first journey of many; taking her home from the hospital.

It’s a hard mentality to un-do, and quite rightly so, as the safe transit of your precious cargo remains the number one priority on any car journey. But five years on, I’m wondering if I have lost my way on the do’s and don’ts of car safety with kids.

For example, as a stay at home Mum, I’m willing and able to lend a hand to any fellow Mums in need of a pick up or drop off to school, gymnastics, swimming etc etc etc. And yet, I will often hang back, dithering on the grounds of my inability to fathom the hows and whens of car seat cramming into the family wagon – and yet being a cult classic, the Nissan Qashquai,  it’s hardly the smallest car on the block.

We have tentatively offered to pick up friends for playdates or drop them home, but painstakingly removed and refitted car seats across cars and lugged them from home to home. Battled to squeeze them between the two resident car seats and dithered whether it’s okay to have a seat in the front?

When pals have asked for a ride, with their kids, even though they are confident in their child’s ability to safely sit in a vacant child car seat, I’ll give them a grilling on height and weight to ensure the boxes are all ticked, and have never contemplated letting a child travel in my car without a car seat.

Yet I feel a little alone in my mission. Everyone around me seems so much more relaxed on the subject that I feel about it all, mentally still trapped in that ‘newborn in a maxi cosi’ mindset. After all, how do families with more than two kids manage?

But, what if the worst were to happen? That’s the unimaginable fact of the matter in all this isn’t it? As a driver, you accept accountability of your passengers safety, do you not? And, as I’ve read up, legally YOU have a duty of care to transport other people’s children in your car with the correct restraints.

Given my total bumblings around the issue, I’ve conducted a little research into what the real guidelines currently state, courtesy of, as of the time of writing this post, September 2017.

Note: This blog post isn’t the law, or the rules…it’s a ramble, so please check current guidelines and please don’t hold my word as a  legal document.

So the crux of it is that if you can, you should always use a car seat at the right weight & height per the specific seats guidelines. If your child is under three, it’s no car seat, no travel. (Unless you’re in a taxi, that is.)

If your child is over three (with no reference to size) it is permitted to travel using an adult seat belt, (or no seat belt if the vehicle doesn’t have one) PROVIDED the journey is a) unexpected b)necessary c) over a short distance.

If a third car seat doesn’t fit in the back seat, a child under three is permitted to sit in front seat in a child car seat (if rear facing air bags must be switched off).

If the child is over three, and there is no room for a third car seat, the child may have an adult seat belt only, in the rear seat.

If there is no seat belt in the vehicle, a child under three cannot travel; A child over three may sit in the rear without a car seat or seat belt.

So it’s still a little vague and leaves room for your own discretion. I still have questions in my mind that I can’t find the answer to…for example, is it better to put a 3+ year old in the rear with an adult seat belt, or in the front with a car seat if there is one available? Is giving a friends child a lift home from school unexpected and necessary if you had a few hours notice? Thoughts please?!

The RSPA website  has some really valuable Q&A’s on the subject, and  has helped me work out my own position on where I stand with all of this.

So give it some thought too…that quick offer of help, albeit with the best intentions, because could you really justify that trip as unexpected and necessary, if you had to defend it in front of a judge and jury, whilst your heart broke for what you might have been able to prevent?

Or am I just worrying excessively?… I’m still not entirely sure.


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22 thoughts on “Children, car seats and the law…

  1. Nicole Reply

    This is a great subject Talya, one that most of us mums as you rightly pointed out, tend to overlook or take less seriously. The questions you have raised are poignant – I’m curious to see the comments on this one! Thanks for starting the discussion…

  2. Nicole Reply

    So so sorry… I meant Sarah… got 10 windows open on my screen and mum brain took over… I need my afternoon tea asap. Fab post… xxx

  3. beautybabyandme Reply

    It’s a minefield isn’t it. This is a really helpful post hun and certainly not an unnecessary worry in my opinion xx #coolmumclub

  4. pamsbakeandbabyblog Reply

    I tend to always err on the side on caution. Wont take kids regardless of age in the car if they wouldnt be in a car seat – i think the law needs to change to be more definite to give parents clear guidelines. Why shoudl kids be able to travel with just a seatbelt at 3 plus for any reason? #coolmumclub

  5. Claire - Life, Love and Dirty Dishes Reply

    I find the laws so confusing. My 8 year old is still in a high back seat. He is still comfortable so we haven’t moved him to a booster yet as my understanding is a high backed one is safer. But whenever I read the laws I just tie myself in knots trying to understand them! #coolmumclub

  6. mammaprada Reply

    This is a real issue. We have got round it by having a Trunki Boostapak. Link below. It means that I can take other people’s children home with a booster seat that keeps the adult seat belt at the right height for a child’s body so it actually is more effective in an accident. We also take it on holidays with us. It has a backpack compartment where my son can put his toys. And then it converts into a seat in the hire car when we arrive. Saves spending lots on hiring car seats abroad as well. I now have these on the shop on my site but we’ve actually been using ours for a couple of years now. #coolmumclub

  7. Donna Reply

    Definitely not unnecessary worry! Michael is 6 now, and has never been in a car without a carseat, and he’s probably as tall as most 8 year olds. It’s just part of life now, I don’t even think about putting them in. #coolmumclub

  8. Mrs Jibril Reply

    I’m not very familiar with the carseat laws, my son is still a toddler so we invested in a convertible car seat that we still use today. personally I wouldn’t let a child in the front seat under 6 or 7 maybe I’m just a little paranoid that if something bad happens #coolmumclub

  9. motherhoodtherealdeal Reply

    This is such a tough one and I don’t know where I stand on this,….in Singapore you didn’t even need car seats when we had our daughter so i guess that makes me more on the relaxed side….which probably isn’t actually a good or very safe thing! Some food for thought for sure my lovely #coolmumclub co-host xoxo

  10. oldhouseintheshires Reply

    No I don’t think u are worrying unduly. Safety is paramount. Can u imagine if u took a friends child, had an accident and something happened to that child. Great post #coolmumclub

  11. emmaology Reply

    I’ve never thought of it like this, but I don’t really take other children in my car. I totally understand where you’re coming from, you hope nothing would happen but you never know so I guess it’s always best to be careful #coolmumclub

  12. ettieandme Reply

    This is sooo useful but you’re right a complete minefield! I hadnt even thought about the car seat issue with a third child. Definitely dont think you’re worrying unnecessarily #coolmumclub! x

  13. Pen Reply

    I definitely don’t think you’re worrying unnecessarily. The consequences of the worst case don’t bear thinking about. I am lucky in that a) we don’t have a car and b) Cygnets school is 5 mins walk up the road. The time will come though when we have to scrounge lifts. I am not sure which is more awkward- declining an offer of a lift because you are unsure if the safety of the transportation or refusing to give a lift because you are nervous about taking another child in your car in sub-safety standard conditions. Pen x #coolmumclub

  14. Sadie Reply

    I’m a bit of a car seat fanatic. I can’t understand the taxi thing, given the taxi drivers in my town are some of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen. I know it isn’t practical for them to have child seats, but it’s never sat right with me (pun not intended!).

  15. mealsandmakes Reply

    You raise some really important points. Its all so difficult but I don’t think you can be too cautious where child car seats are concerned. #coolmumclub

  16. The Queen of Collage Reply

    I think it’s certainly best to er on the side of caution and can truly understand your worry over this. #coolmumclub

  17. Nicola Reply

    The rules are definitely confusing. I take a friend’s daughter home from school every Thursday and because I don’t see the Mum I don’t have a car seat for her. I feel happy that it’s only a very short journey and she is a very tall 7 year old but it does make life difficult if you need to ferry other people’s children around. #coolmumclub

  18. Mum in Brum Reply

    It is all a bit baffling and it seems as though they keep changing the laws so it’s hard to keep up! Our kids aren’t really at the age where I’ve had to think about this too much yet – we’re still firmly in the ‘no car seat, no travel’ zone, but I imagine it will become more of quandary once they get a little older x #coolmumclub

  19. JakiJellz Reply

    Great subject. It’s such a confusing subject and it feels like the laws and rules change all the time. #coolmumclub

  20. Muffintopmummyblog Reply

    Woah I got confused just reading through this – and you’d done the complex research bit! Perhaps they need to re-think this as it all seems a bit jumbled and non-sensical. It’d be easier if there were more simple guidelines – especially so that people like yourselves don’t end up in situations that you aren’t entirely comfortable with #coolmumclub

  21. Mrs Mummy Harris Reply

    Ben is in the car seat that came with his pram but he’s now getting almost too big for it so we need to get a new one. This whole new law is making it so confusing as what he should and shouldnt be in. ERF seems to be the way for us until he’s a teen… someone said until he’s old enough to drive earlier…. i think i might change my agelimit hahaha! #coolmumclub

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