SEAT BELTS AND child restraints
Always wear a seatbelt
SEAT BELTS AND
child restraints
www.dft.gov.uk/think
wearing a seat belt
SAVES LIVES
FOR YOUR
OWN AND
OTHERS’
SAFETY, THE
LAW REQUIRES
YOU TO USE A
SEAT BELT IF
ONE IS FITTED
AND FOR
CHILDREN UP
TO 135CMS IN
HEIGHT TO
USE A CHILD
RESTRAINT
2
Seat belt wearing saves over 2,000 lives every year. Everyone
knows they should wear a seat belt in the front seat, but many
people still don’t realise how dangerous it is not to wear a seat belt
in the back.
IN A CRASH AT 30MPH, IF YOU ARE
UNRESTRAINED, YOU WILL HIT THE FRONT
SEAT, AND ANYONE IN IT, WITH A FORCE OF
BETWEEN 30 AND 60 TIMES YOUR
OWN BODY WEIGHT.
This could result in death or serious injury to you and people sitting
in the front seat.
Any compensation for injury following an accident may be reduced
if you were not wearing a seat belt.
the law
In law:
> You must wear a seat belt in cars and goods vehicles where one is fitted. There are very
few exceptions to this. The driver is liable to prosecution if a child under 14 years does
not wear a seat belt or child restraint.
> You must not carry an unrestrained child in the front seat of any vehicle.
> Children up to 135cms in height must use the appropriate child restraint when travelling in
any car, van or goods vehicle - there are very few exceptions.
> A child may use an adult belt when they reach 135cm in height or the age of 12
(whichever is reached first).
> In minibuses with seat belts fitted passengers 3 years and over must use seat belts or
child restraints if available.
> In buses and coaches with seat belts fitted, passengers aged 14 years and above must
use them. Regulations will be brought in as soon as possible to require children 3 to 13
years to use seat belts (or child restraints) in these vehicles. Passengers in public farepaying buses used wholly on 30mph roads are exempt.
The law in respect of cars, vans and goods vehicles is summarised in the table below.
FRONT SEAT
Driver
Seat belt must be
worn if fitted
Correct child
restraint must
be used
REAR SEAT
Driver
Child from 3rd
birthday up to
135cms in height
(approx 4ft 5ins)
(or 12th birthday,
whichever they
reach first)
Correct child
restraint must
be used
Child 12 or 13,
or over 135cms
(approx 4ft 5ins)
in height
Adult passengers
Adult seat belt must
be worn if available
Correct child restraint
must be used. If one
is not available in a
licensed taxi /private hire
vehicle, may
travel unrestrained
Correct child restraint
must be used where seat
belts fitted. Must use adult
belt in rear seat if correct
child restraint not available:
– in a licensed taxi/
private hire vehicle;
– for a short distance in an
unexpected necessity;
– if two occupied child
restraints prevent fitting of
a third;
– a child 3 years and over
may travel unrestrained
in the rear seat of a vehicle
if seat belts are not fitted in
the rear
Adult seat belt must be
worn if available
Seat belt must be
worn if available
Seat belt must be worn
if available
Child under 3
years of age
WHO IS
RESPONSIBLE?
Driver
Driver
Driver
Passenger
3
which vehicles does the
LAW AFFECT?
All vehicles where seat belts are fitted, including vans and
other goods vehicles, buses, minibuses and coaches.
what if there are
NOT ENOUGH SEAT
BELTS AVAILABLE?
Seat belt wearing law does not prevent you from carrying more
adult passengers than there are seat belts. However, children up to
135cms in height must have child restraints with few exceptions.
It is an offence if the way in which passengers are carried causes
danger to any person in the vehicle. Do not overload a vehicle.
If you have adult passengers without a seat belt remember that
they can cause injury to others in an accident.
Children 3 years and over can only travel in the back of a vehicle
without seat belts (e.g. a classic car) and those under 3 years
cannot be carried at all.
4
seat belt
USE
Lap-and-diagonal belts provide more
protection and should be used before
lap-only belts.
NEVER PUT THE SAME SEAT
BELT AROUND TWO CHILDREN,
OR AROUND YOURSELF AND
ANOTHER PASSENGER
(ADULT OR CHILD).
DO NOT ALLOW YOUR CHILD
TO USE THE ADULT BELT TOO
EARLY (SEE PAGES 7 AND 10).
Adjust the seat belt so that the lap belt is as low as possible across the hip bones – not over
the stomach. Make sure the diagonal strap lies across the chest and away from the neck.
It should slope up and back to the top fixing point and not be twisted. In many cars, you can
adjust the height of the top fixing point to make this easier. Do not leave any slack in the belt.
Do not try to improve seat belt comfort with padding or cushions or sit on any mats or
cushions. If you find your seat belt is really uncomfortable, ask the vehicle manufacturer if
they have a recommended comfort device.
The centre rear seats of many cars are fitted with a lap-only seat belt that must be
adjusted manually. It is important that you adjust such belts for a snug fit over your hips,
without any slack.
pregnant WOMEN
THE LAP STRAP SHOULD GO ACROSS
THE HIPS, FITTING COMFORTABLY
UNDER THE BUMP, WHILE THE
DIAGONAL STRAP SHOULD BE
PLACED BETWEEN THE BREASTS
AND AROUND THE BUMP.
Like any other driver or passenger, pregnant women must wear a
seat belt. There is no automatic exemption for them. Wearing a
belt may not be comfortable, but it improves safety for both
mother and unborn baby.
5
airbags
• Airbag systems differ from car to car, therefore always check
and follow specific advice from the manufacturer or in the
owner’s hand book. This is particularly important in relation to
children and frontal airbags.
• Studies show that airbags reduce severe head injuries in
accidents. However airbags are not substitutes for seat
belts – they are designed to work with them. Given the
speed and force with which an airbag inflates, it is vitally
important that you always wear your seat belt and that you do
not sit too close to the steering wheel or dashboard. We
recommend that the distance between the centre of the steering
wheel to your breastbone should be at least 10 inches (25cms).
• The law prohibits the use of a rear facing child seat against an
active frontal airbag.
disabled PERSON’S BELTS
Disabled drivers or passengers (adult or children) may need to use
specially adapted belts known as ‘disabled person’s belts’. Their
design may differ from the standard lap or 3-point seat belt and
they are intended for use solely by disabled people. Similarly,
disabled children may need to use child restraints specially
designed for their requirements. The regulations allow disabled
person's belts or child restraints to be used instead of the standard
seat belts and child restraints.
6
child RESTRAINT
SYSTEMS
TAKE TIME TO
MAKE SURE
YOUR CHILD
RESTRAINTS
ARE
PROPERLY
FITTED EVERY
TIME.
Injuries to children can be significantly reduced by using a suitable
child restraint. They must be approved to the United Nations ECE
Regulation 44.03 (or later e.g. 44.04) type approved standards.
These give the weight range for the children who may
use them. You must use the right one for each child.
There are several types of child restraints – child seats,
booster seats and booster cushions. You must check
on the seat description itself that it is suitable for your
child’s weight. Look for a label with an “E” mark and an
approval number starting with ‘03’ or 44.03 (or later numbering,
e.g. .04) and the weight range
of child for which it is designed. Only
REAR-FACING CHILD
very old restraints will have a BS
“Kitemark” and these should not be used.
SEATS PROVIDE
VERY HIGH LEVELS
OF PROTECTION
FOR CHILDREN, BUT
BY LAW THEY MUST
NOT BE USED
WHERE A FRONT
SEAT IS PROTECTED
BY AN ACTIVE
FRONTAL AIRBAG.
Before buying a child restraint, you should try it in your car
to make sure it fits properly. Ask for a demonstration. A
properly installed restraint fits tightly into the adult seat –
push your weight against it while tightening the adult seat
belt. The seat belt buckle should not rest on the restraint
frame. Beware of old or second-hand restraints which may
be damaged or worn out. They may not have proper fitting
instructions and may not meet current standards.
Take ample time to fit a child restraint in your car and
always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Recent vehicles may have ISOFix attachment points. An
ISOFix child restraint is installed using these and not the
adult seat belt (although many can be used with adult belts). They are easier and quicker to
install accurately and safely. But always check whether a child restraint is suitable for the
ISOFix points in your car – some will differ.
Adult belts are best for adults over 150cms (4ft 11ins) or taller - the law allows children to
use adult belts from 135cms in height. The law requires that children under 135cms must
use the correct child seat or booster. A booster seat or cushion may not be popular with
older children but it puts them in the right position so that they get the maximum protection
from the adult belt. It is important to get the belt low across the abdomen from hip bone to
hip bone and over the shoulder, away from the neck.
7
As children get older, they need to move up to the next restraint. The
table summarises which child restraint type is suitable for a range of
child weights. However for specific information you should refer to the
manufacturer’s instructions for the suitability of the restraint for your
child. Manufacturers may use different names and some products
cover more than one weight range.
UNECE 44.03 GROUP
WEIGHT RANGE
AGE RANGE
(APPROX)
Group
Group
Group
Group
Up to 13kgs
From 9kgs to 18kgs
From 15kgs and upwards
From 22kgs and upwards
Birth to 9-12 months
9 months to 4 years
From approx 4 years
From approx 6 years
0
1
2
3
and 0+ (eg baby seat)
(eg child seat)
(eg booster seat)
(eg booster cushion)
child SEATS
AIRBAGS ARE POWERFUL SAFETY DEVICES.
A REAR-FACING CHILD SEAT WOULD BE HIT BY A
FRONTAL AIRBAG IF IT DEPLOYED - AND COULD
BE THROWN UP AND TOWARDS THE REAR OF
THE VEHICLE. THIS MEANS THAT THE CHILD SEAT
AND CHILD COULD BE COMPLETELY
UNRESTRAINED DURING A CRASH.
The safest type of restraint available for early
childhood is the child safety seat. This is because
the bone making process isn’t complete until the
age of 6 or 7 and throughout childhood a child’s
skull isn’t as strong as that of an adult. A relatively
small impact can result in significant injury. A restraint
system needs to limit forward head movement in a
frontal impact and provide protection from intrusion in
a side impact. These seats can be either forwards or
rearwards facing and are fitted with an integral harness
which secures the child and spreads the crash forces over
a wide area. They may be fitted using the adult seat belt or
where appropriate by the ISOFix system. These seats will
last from birth to 13kgs and then up to 18kgs.
A child seat harness should include a ‘crotch strap’ which will
prevent the child from sliding out feet first in an accident.
8
Remember to follow the manufacturer’s
instructions every time when fitting the
child seat.
Note that carrycots with restraint straps
do not provide the protection provided by
purpose designed child seats. A child seat is
safer and more convenient, although doctors may
occasionally advise the use of a carrycot, e.g. for
premature or very low birth weight babies. Only a special
carrycot which complies with UN ECE Regulation 44.03 (or
subsequent standard e.g. 44.04) is allowed.
booster SEAT
A booster seat puts a child in the right position
so that an adult seat belt gives most
protection. Slots guide the adult seat belt
straps around a child and must be used as
instructed by the manufacturer. Both the
booster seat and the child are restrained by
the adult seat belt.
Most booster seats are intended to be
used with an adult lap-and-diagonal
seat belt. Some boosters do not have
backs. However, a high-back booster
will provide support for the child
generally and will give a measure of
protection from whiplash injury.
9
booster CUSHION
This is designed to raise a child so that the adult seat belt can be
used safely. It must be used as instructed by the manufacturer.
DO NOT
ALLOW YOUR
CHILD TO USE
ONLY THE
ADULT BELT
TOO EARLY.
10
EXEMPTIONS FROM
SEAT BELT WEARING
There is a specific exemption from seat belt wearing on medical
grounds. There are some other exemptions, for example when
reversing.
If you think you should not wear a seat belt on medical grounds,
please consult your doctor. He/she will decide and, if warranted, will
issue you a formal “Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat
Belt Wearing”. This must be produced if the police ask you for it.
For more information see http://www.dft.gov.uk/think/focusareas/
invehiclesafety/seatbelts?page=FAQ&whoareyou_id=
If you are claiming certain benefits you may be entitled to assistance
towards the cost of any medical examination for a medical exemption
certificate.
For more information on the law on seat belt and child restraint
wearing, please contact:
Road User Safety Division
Department for Transport
Zone 2/15, Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DR
Tel: 020 7944 2046
Fax: 020 7944 9618
Email: [email protected]
For further information about the fitting and wearing of seat belts and
child restraints, and road safety in general, please contact your Road
Safety Officer through your local County Council, or in Scotland, your
Road Safety Training Officer through your Local Authority or
Police Force.
The child car seat web-site at www.childcarseats.org.uk also has
information about the law and the fitting and wearing of child
restraints.
Further copies of this leaflet (Product Code T/INF/251) can be
obtained by telephoning 0300 123 1102, or emailing
[email protected]
www.dft.gov.uk/think
Always wear a seatbelt
For more information about child car seats and other THINK! road safety campaigns visit www.dft.gov.uk/think
For wider motoring advice, such as how to renew your car tax online, visit www.direct.gov.uk.
Directgov – public services all in one place.
Published by the Department for Transport.
© Crown copyright 2006.
Reprinted in the UK March 2009.
Product Code T/INF/251
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