Child Car Seat Requirements & Guidelines in the UK

Believe it or not, seat belts didn’t become a legal requirement for rear passengers until 1987. Even more remarkably, the use of children’s car seats wasn’t made a legal requirement until 2006!

Since then, all infants from birth until a certain age or height must be in a specially designed car seat. This is a legal requirement. Failure to do so will likely result in you receiving a £500 fine. But of course, the threat of a cash fine pales in comparison to the realities and outcomes of an accident.

Sadly, as many as 22% of parents in London are reported to be in breach of such laws.

Main points of the Law:

  1. 1) Height based seats are required to be used Rear Facing for a minimum of 15 months.
  2. 2) A suitable* child car seat must be used until the child reaches a height of 135cms or 12 years old, whichever is reached first.
  3. 3) There some special rules for Children under 3 years:
  • a) A child under 3 years may never travel in the front seat of a car without the correct restraint
  • b) They are allowed to travel in Taxi, minicab, minibus, coach or van without a suitable seat
  • c) On an unexpected journey – an emergency
  • d) There is no room for another car seat

*Suitable means a seat that is intended for the child’s height, weight and the vehicle it is to be used in.

The purpose of the regulations and the law are to improve levels of safety for children in vehicles. It is our responsibility to ensure our children are protected to the best of our ability. We act for them.

What are the legal requirements for rear-facing car seats?

New laws dictate that children must travel in rear-facing car seats until they are 15 months old.  Simple.

Furthermore, you must never fit a rear-facing child seat in the front of your car where there is an active passenger airbag.

What are the legal requirements for forward-facing car seats?

From 15 months old onwards, it is believed that your child’s neck will be strong enough to more reasonably handle the impact of an accident, and therefore, forward-facing car seats may be used. However, we always recommend using rear-facing car seats for as long as possible.

What car seat is legally required for my child?

There are two categories of seats, those that are manufactured to the latest EU standard ECE R129, known as i-Size and are based on a child‘s height and those manufactured under the EU standard ECE R44-04, these are weight-based.

This is a simple guide to seat categories and the law.

When can my children legally travel without a car seat?

In the UK, children must be restrained in a car seat until they’re 12 years old or at least 135cm tall. From that point onwards, they must use a seat belt like all adults.

As stated above, there are a few exceptions to this law such as:

  • A child can travel via taxi or mini-cab without a car seat if the driver doesn’t provide one. They must wear a seat belt.
  • Similar for coaches and minibuses. They must travel in the rear seats and use seat belts.
  • If you were making a short-distance, unexpected journey, it is legally acceptable to restrain your child with just a seat belt instead of a child car seat so long as your child is 3 years and older.

While these legal exceptions exist, we advise our customers not to take any unnecessary risks. Accidents happen in taxis and buses too.

  • Finally, children with special or additional needs or medical conditions will have bespoke requirements outside of normal laws. Usually, they are required to be restrained by means designed for their needs.

In Car Safety Centre have special needs car seat expertise and years of experience in these areas. Get in touch with us directly to assess your circumstances.

What can I do if I need to get a taxi and can’t take my car seat?

If the driver doesn’t provide the correct child car seat, children can travel without one – but only if they travel on a rear seat.

  • They must wear an adult seatbelt if they’re 3 or older
  • Can travel without a seatbelt if they’re under 3


Do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team if you have any more questions.

Book a consultation with one of our expert car seat specialists today.