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 many lives every year. Everyone knows
they should wear a seat belt but don’t always use one on every trip,
especially for short journeys in urban areas. Some 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,YOUR BODY WILL HIT
ANYTHING IN FRONT OF YOU WITH A
FORCE EQUIVALENT TO 30 TO 60 TIMES
YOUR OWN BODY WEIGHT.
This could result in death or serious injury to you and people sitting
in the car.
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.
> All children up to 135cms in height must use the appropriate child restraint for their weight
when travelling in the front or back of any car, van or other goods vehicle - there are 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.
The law in respect of cars, vans and other goods vehicles is summarised in the table below.
Driver
Child under 3
years of age
FRONT SEAT REAR SEAT
WHO IS
RESPONSIBLE?
Seat belt must be
worn if fitted
Correct child
restraint must
be used
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
Driver
Passenger
Driver
Driver
3
what if there are
NOT ENOUGH SEAT
BELTS AVAILABLE?
Children up to 135cms in height must have a child restraint with
few exceptions.
If you have adult passengers without a seat belt remember that
they can cause injury to others in the vehicle in a collision.
It is an offence if the way in which passengers are carried
causes danger to any person in the vehicle. Do not
overload the vehicle.
In vehicles without seat belts (e.g. a classic car), remember
that children 3 years and over can only travel in the back
and those under 3 years cannot be carried at all.
4
seat belt
USE
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 from hip bone to hip bone – 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 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 some 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 if there is a crash.
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.
ISOFix CHILD
RESTRAINTS
6
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.
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. There are several types of child restraints – baby
seats, child seats and boosters. Boosters 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.
REAR-FACING
CHILD 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.
You must use the
right one for each child.
You must check on the seat
packaging that it is suitable for
your child’s weight. Look also for a
label on the restraint with the weight
range of the child for which it is designed.
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 up to date standards. They
could already have crash damage that you cannot see.
Take ample time to fit a child restraint in your car and always
follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
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.
WEIGHT RANGE
Group
Group
Group
Group
0
1
2
3
and 0+ (eg baby seat)
(eg child seat)
(eg booster seat)
(eg booster cushion)
Up to 13kg
From 9kg to 18kg
From 15kg to 25kg and upwards
From 22kg to 36kg
baby & 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 baby/child 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. Baby seats (Group 0
and 0+) must be rear facing whilst child seats (Group 1)
may be either forwards or rearwards facing and are
fitted with an integral harness or impact shield 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 13kg and then up to 18kg.
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.
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_media/
241045/241136/2009-exemptions.pdf
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 5929
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 via
www.dft.gov.uk/orderingpublications
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 February 2010.
Product Code TINF251
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