The Department of Transport's report on road casualties in the UK revealed there were 2,070 children (aged 0-15) killed or seriously injured in the year ending September 2016.
With the introduction of the EU i-Size guide regulation and the updated car child seat laws in February 2017, it might be difficult for you to know what's best for your child and most suitable for your vehicle.
The new laws mean manufacturers aren't allowed to introduce new models of backless booster seats for children who weigh less than 22kg (3st 3lbs) or are shorter than 125cm (4ft 1in). However, this doesn't affect existing models.
You could be fined up to £500 if you allow a child to travel in your car without a car seat. The potential fine also applies to those not using booster seats if they're required.
Knowing the rules around car seats is essential for anyone who travels with children in their vehicle.
There's far more than just age to consider when it comes to car seats. Weight and height are the all important factors.
Law on car seats UK
Children must normally use car seats until they are 12 years old or 135cm tall - whichever comes first. If a child is over 12 or more than 135cm tall they must wear a seatbelt.
The only car seats which can be used in the UK are those which are EU-approved and have a label showing capital 'E' in a circle and 'R129' for height-based seats, or 'ECE R44' for weight-based ones.
You should keep your baby in a rearward-facing seat for as long as possible, this is considered the safest option, current EU legislation states this is considered to be until they are 13kg and can sit up unaided.
Rear facing is considered to be safest because it offers the most protection for head, neck and vital organs.
There are two recognised ways to decide which car seat your child needs, either based on height or weight.
The i-Size regulation was introduced in July 2013 and is intended to encourage parents to keep their children in rearward facing seats for longer - preferably until they are at least 15 months old.
Once your child is 15 months or older they can use a forward facing seat, but this is discouraged by many as your child's body may not be strong enough.
You must check the seat is suitable for your child's height - the retailer you purchase the seat from will advise you on this.
For children up to 10kg a rear-facing, lie-flat baby carrier or baby seat should be used
If your child weighs 13kg and can sit up unaided, EU legislation considers it appropriate for a child to be moved to a forward facing position, using a harness or safety shield. However, this is discouraged by many until your child weighs around 18-25kg as their bodies may not be strong enough until then.
Many parents believe that moving a child from rear facing to forward facing too soon can put them at risk of severe neck or back injuries in the event of a crash.
If there was just one seat for each stage of your child's development then life would be easy but as we all know, life is very rarely easy.
There are thousands of designs on the market, a plethora of colours and shapes all supposedly the ideal seat for your little darling - so how on earth do you choose?
First and foremost, the seat must have a label showing a capital E in a circle to show it is EU-approved and safe to use in the UK.
You can use a child car seat only if your car has a diagonal belt strap, or provided that the seat is:
Remember, you can't fit a child seat in side-facing seats
Rearward-facing baby seats (newborn to 13kg)
This seat faces towards the rear of the car and fits in either the front or back passenger seats - only fit to the front seat if the airbag has been deactivated. An airbag could cause injury or even death to a child.
An adjustable harness and the adult seatbelt keep the baby strapped in place.
New babies should lie flat when sleeping, as carriers prop the baby in an upright position they should not be left to sleep for longer than two hours in them.
According to EU regulations, once baby reaches 13kg they can be moved into a forward facing seat which can be fitted to the front or rear passenger seat. However, many parents and campaigners don't recommend moving to forward facing seat until they are 18-25kg.
This seat would remain fixed in the car and wouldn't be suitable to carry the baby around in.
Forward facing seat
Similar to rearward facing seats, forward facing seats are used on the back seat and can only be used in the front if there isn't an airbag fitted or if the airbag is turned off.
The seat has a harness and is fixed in place by the adult seatbelt.
Booster and backrest seat
Designed for use with a full adult seatbelt (not just a lap belt), these raise a child's seating position.
It's safest to use a booster seat in the rear of the car but they can be used in the front provided the front airbag isn't activated. It's important the seat is correctly adjusted as they don't come with integral harnesses to hold the child in place.
Booster seat law states that they shouldn't be used for children shorter than 125cm or weighing less than 22kg, and since March 2017 manufacturers have no longer been allowed to produce booster seats intended for children that don't fit those requirements
Even though it is mandatory for all kids to travel in a suitable child car seat, there are some circumstances which make an exception:
The three most important points are:
1. The belt should be worn as tightly as possible
2. The lap belt should go over the pelvic region, not the stomach
3. The diagonal strap should rest over the shoulder, not the neck.
Each time you fasten your child in to their seat:
Follow our checklist before parting with your cash:
Having a baby most definitely doesn't come cheap, and hand-me-downs can sometimes be a great alternative to splashing the cash on expensive, new items. However, the safest advice is not to buy or use a second-hand child car seat.
It's impossible to know if it's been involved in an accident, as damage is not always visible. There's also the fact the instruction manual may be missing which will make it harder to fit safely.
Mothercare suggests steering clear of second hand car seats, with the parent and baby superstore advising: Never buy a second hand car seat, the seat might be damaged - and it's not always easy to see - which could put your little one at risk if you were involved in an accident.
Buying new is the safest option for your baby.
In the eyes of the law, being pregnant is no excuse for not wearing a seatbelt. In the UK, all pregnant women must wear a seatbelt while travelling in a car, whether they are in the front or back of the vehicle.
There are some rare circumstances where a doctor may deem you medically exempt and you will be given a Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing. You'll need to keep the certificate in the car with you at all times, inform your insurer and show it to the police if asked.
The Department for Transport's leaflet on the subject explains the exemptions.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) provides the following guidelines on the correct way to wear a seatbelt when pregnant:
Thankfully, the laws around car seats and child restraints have changed dramatically over the last 10 years and it's now compulsory for children of all ages to be safely secured into a car.
Knowing the law is the best way to know you're doing everything you can keep your young passengers as safe as possible.
Summary of the law:
Driver seatbelt MUST be worn if fitted.
Responsibility - driver
Children under three years
Appropriate child restraint MUST be used in the front seat and/or in the rear seats.
Responsibility - driver
Children aged three-11 and under 1.35 metres
In the front seat a child restraint MUST be used. In the rear seat a child restraint MUST be used if seatbelts fitted.
Responsibility - driver
Children aged 12-13 or over 1.35 metres
Adult seatbelts MUST be worn if available - both in the front passenger and rear seats. Responsibility - driver
Adult passengers, 14 years and upwards Adult seatbelts MUST be used if available - both in the front passenger and rear seats. Responsibility - passenger
Disabled drivers and passengers are required to wear a seatbelt, unless a medical condition doesn't allow it. The vehicle should also be adapted according to the person's needs.
If your vehicle doesn't have seatbelts:
You won't be allowed to carry any children under the age of three in it, and children older than that are required to sit in the back seats.
You can be fined up to £500 if you don't wear a seatbelt when you're supposed to. As the driver, it's your responsibility to make sure all passengers aged 14 and below are wearing correct seatbelts.