Millions of UK drivers rely on child car seats to keep little passengers safe every day.

What many might not know about are common mistakes which could lead to penalty points, fines, or worse, an accident.

Fortunately, experts at CarMats.co.uk have highlighted the laws drivers transporting children need to be aware of and the car seat mistakes to avoid in order to keep little ones safe.


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Child car seat laws – i-Size and weight based

Under rules 99 to 102 of The Highway Code, youngsters must remain in a car seat until they're 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first.

A car seat can either be chosen on the basis of the child’s height or weight:

Height based:

So called 'i-Size' seats are chosen based on the height of a child.

Those under 15 months must be placed in a rear-facing car seat until they reach 15 months and can sit in a forward-facing car seat after that.

Weight-based:

0kg to 10kg – Group 0 – Lie-flat or ‘lateral’ baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier, or rear-facing baby seat using a harness

0kg to 13kg – 0+ – Rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness

9kg to 18kg – 1 – Rear- or forward-facing baby seat using a harness or safety shield

15kg to 25kg – 2 – Rear- or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield

22kg to 36kg – 3 – Rear- or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Some common child car seat mistakes could land drivers with penalty points and a hefty fine. Picture: PASome common child car seat mistakes could land drivers with penalty points and a hefty fine. Picture: PA

Those who don’t follow these criteria risk a fine of up to £500 and points on their licence.

Common child car seat mistakes

Along with an inappropriate car seat, there are other mistakes that could also risk the safety of your child.

Here, CarMats.co.uk round-up seven of the most common car seat mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Car seat not installed correctly or securely

An indicator your seat isn’t installed correctly is if the seat is considerably loose. If it can be moved with ease, it may mean that your seat hasn’t been installed properly or that the car seat isn’t compatible with the car.

Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s manual that comes with your car seat and thoroughly check its fixture in your car every time it is used.

2. Child is wearing bulky clothes 

That snug puffer jacket might keep your child from getting cold, but it could also be a safety risk.

The added layers can add extra slack and reduce the defence of the car seat.

Instead, you should strap your child in the seat first, then, for added warmth, add a blanket on top after. This ensures that your child is properly strapped in.

3. Adding nonessential toys to the seat

Keeping a young child entertained is no easy task but attaching a toy to a child's seat can be a safety risk.

Unless a toy or accessory came with your seat, or is recommended by the manufacturer, then it shouldn’t be used.

Toys when detached from the seat can become a flight risk and cause a distraction while you’re driving.

4. Straps are too loose or too tight

Your seat could be installed perfectly, but if the straps aren’t properly adjusted then your child could be dislodged from the seat, resulting in injury, or worse, in the event of a crash.

One way to check the straps are fastened correctly is by doing the pinch test.

Simply place your fingers on the harness, where it rests on your child’s collarbone. If the strap material can be pinched together and folded, then this means the harness is too loose. Adjust the strap so the material can no longer be pinched together.

5. Going from rear- to forward-facing too soon

In a bid to keep a watchful eye on children, many parents choose to move their babies into a forward-facing seat as soon as they reach the minimum age and weight suitability at 9 months or 9kg.

As young children are still developing, their neck, head and spine are fragile and, if placed in a forward-facing position too soon, risk injuring these vulnerable areas.

Youngsters should remain in a rear-facing seat until they reach 13kg in weight, or 15 months old in an i-Size seat.

6. Forgetting to adjust the strap height when your child grows

Adjusting the harness strap height is not a one-time job, as children grow, so should the height of the harness strap.

If the strap height doesn’t match your child’s height, then it can increase the amount your child’s body can move during a crash. It also increases the risk of injury.

Parents should monitor the harness strap height according to their child’s shoulders. In rear-facing seats, the straps should come through the car seat slots below or at the same level as their shoulders. Whereas on forward-facing seats, the straps should be above or at the same level as the shoulders.

7. Moving to a booster seat too soon

Only when a child is mature enough and reaches the height and weight limit of a car seat should they move on to sit in a booster seat.

Booster seats will come with weight and height limits and all vary based on the manufacturer’s instructions. However, there is also a maturity requirement to sit in a booster seat.

The general rule is that children over four can ride in a booster seat, however, this is on a case-by-case basis. Even when your child reaches that age, if they can’t stay still in their seat, it may be worth keeping them in a child seat for longer.