Children who are under 150cm in height are safest in a correctly-fitted child seat that is correct for their height and weight. This brings complexities with it when organising group transport, that need to be considered. Please note that this page has a lot of content. You may want to print it off rather than read on screen.
Are you sure you can use child seats in your vehicle?
Before hiring a vehicle in which you intend to use child seats, you need to be sure that the vehicle is designed to carry the child seats you will be using. Ask the provider of the vehicle to tell you the make and type of vehicle they are providing, and ask them to provide written confirmation from the manufacturer that this make and type of vehicle is compatible with child seats for the age range of children you intend to be carried.
Are you fitting and sitting correctly?
Child seats must also be fitted following the seats’ manufacturers’ instructions using the 3-point belts. Presuming the vehicle is compatible, a child’s own seat, brought from their own car, could be fitted by their parent who is familiar with the fitting instructions. It is equally important that the child is securely and correctly seated and buckled into the seat. Alternatively, you might want the fitting and sitting to be done by an adult carer (because the parent is not around). If the latter is to happen, then the carer should ask parents to provide their seat’s instruction manual. It is also recommended that the carer has received professional training on fitting child seats. Some local authorities provide this training: contact your local authority and ask for their expert on child seats in their road safety unit. If your road safety unit cannot provide training, ask if they know any private providers of training who are reputable (they need to be able to demonstrate to you that they have appropriate, up to date qualifications and experience). If your road safety unit can’t help you, ring neighbouring councils until you find someone.
Sometimes, transport providers provide child seats for you. If child seats are being provided by the transport provider and not by parents, it is important that they are correct for the children’s height and weight. You should check the range of heights and weights of children to be carried, find out the type and make of the child seats, and confirm that they are correct for your children and have not been involved in a crash. It remains important that you confirm that the vehicle you are using is designed to carry these child seats, and that these child seats are fitted correctly and that children are buckled up correctly in them, in line with the seats’ manufacturer’s instructions. This means that if you are fitting the child seats or seating the children yourself you will need access to these instructions.
Tips when using parents’ own child seats
- Ensure children’s child seats are labelled by parents so they don’t get muddled, with the instruction manuals also labelled if you are ‘fitting and sitting’ yourself.
- For children whose parents do not have a car and therefore do not have a car seat, you need a couple of extra, modern child seats to hand that are spare and appropriate for the height and weight of your children. You may also need spares in case parents forget.
Lesson idea for younger children
Follow this link to a Brake lesson idea on child seats including a link to a ‘letter home’ that you can fill in and put in school bags showing each child’s height and explaining the importance of child seats, having the added benefit of reminding parents of their legal responsibilities in their cars as well as making children proud to be safe.
If you are planning not using child seats for children under 150cm tall
As stated above, as long as a vehicle is designed to take child seats it is recommended that they are used for children under 150cm tall, as long as the seats are fitted correctly and children are seated and buckled up correctly. Some adults organising trips for children face logistical difficulties in using child seats. If you can obtain the use of a modern vehicle that is designed to take child seats, Brake strongly recommends that you work to overcome these difficulties. It is invariably worth overcoming these difficulties in the interests of child safety. However, if, against the advice in this guidance, you are not using child seats it is very important that you belt up children using the fitted 3-point belts. To repeat advice earlier given, using a vehicle with lap belts alone is wholly inadequate for these small, young children, and it is usually possible to hire a vehicle with 3-point belts. It is important, if only using 3-point belts, to place, and keep, the lap section across the hard, pelvic area and NOT the stomach of the child, and the diagonal section across their shoulder and NOT their neck. You may find this very hard to achieve because the children are so small - bear this in mind when considering whether to undertake this option rather than use child seats. Some vehicles are fitted with all-generation 3-point belts, where the diagonal section can be lowered so that it fits across a child’s shoulder rather than their neck.
You should never put a seat belt around an adult and a child on your lap; in an impact, your weight would crush the child.
You should never just hold a child - you can’t hold onto them in a crash.
For children who are 150cm or taller, who can travel just using 3-point seat belts, it is important that the lap section of the belt goes across the hard, pelvic area and NOT the stomach, and the diagonal section goes across the shoulder and NOT their neck. Accompanying adults should ensure children keep their belts ON and correctly positioned during the whole duration of the trip. With these older children, it is sensible to provide them with a briefing, immediately before your trip, about the importance of wearing seat belts correctly throughout the trip.
General guidance on fitting child seats (not to replace formal training)
- Not all child seats fit all vehicles. Check with the manufacturer of the seat and the vehicle.
- Do not use a child seat that you do not know the history of; it may have been involved in a crash or damaged in some other way.
Infant Carriers (Group 0 & 0+)
- Infant carriers must only be fitted facing the rear of a vehicle.
- READ the instructions, check seat belt is routed correctly.
- Ensure the seat belt webbing is pulled as tightly as possible with no slack, so there is no excessive movement.
- Keep children in rear facing seats as long as possible, this is the safest position. As a guide, they should only be moved up when their head reaches the top of the seat NOT because their legs look too long.
- Never use a rearward facing child seat on a passenger seat fitted with an airbag.
Forward Facing Seat (Group 1)
- READ the instructions, check seat belt is routed correctly.
- Once fitted, kneel in the seat to pull any slack out of the seatbelt; check there is no movement by pulling the child seat harness.
- Ensure no part of the buckle rests on the frame of the seat as it could break on impact (buckle crunching).
- Do not move a child into this seat unless they can sit up unaided for a length of time.
- Shoulder straps should be level with child’s shoulders and harness comfortable but firm (and not twisted), lying over child’s pelvic area.
- Only move the child up to the next stage seat when the top of their head reaches above the top of the seat.
- It is recommended that all child seats are fitted into the back of cars.
Forward Facing Seat /Booster (Group 2/3)
- Do not use this stage too soon as children are only restrained by the adult seat belt.
- Ensure the diagonal belt lies across the child’s shoulder (not the neck) and the lap belt across the pelvic area (not the abdomen).
- If the seat has a back, use as long as possible until child reaches weight limit or becomes too tall, as it gives side protection.
- Check child’s top of head is not above the seat back as this could lead to whiplash injuries