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 www.gov.uk, 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 www.childcarseats.org.uk 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.