Driver advice: seat belts and child restraints


Drivers can pledge to – make sure everyone in their vehicle is belted upon every journey, and kids smaller than 150cm are in a proper child restraint.

Everyone can pledge to – always belt up, and make sure friends and family do too.

Seat belts

Seat belts are simple to put on and can save your life. They stop you being thrown around the vehicle, or out of it, in a crash. It's estimated by transport researchers that a three-point seat belt halves risk of death in a crash.

SeatbeltAlways wear a seat belt, even on short journeys. Even if you're just driving around the corner, it could still be a life-saver, and it's still the law.

Make sure you have enough three-point seat belts for everyone travelling in your vehicle. Never squeeze extra people in without belts, or sharing the same belt.

Before setting off, make it a habit to check that everyone in your vehicle is belted up. Seat belt use is lower among back seat passengers. An unrestrained back seat passenger is a danger to other people in the vehicle as well as themselves. 

Three-point belts are far safer than lap belts (which only have one strap going across your lap). The shoulder strap on a three-point belt stops your body being flung forward in a crash, which can result in horrific injuries. If you use an older vehicle with a lap belt in a particular seat, don't use that seat.

Head restraints

Make sure everyone's heads and necks are protected by a head restraint. If a head restraint is missing, wobbly, or too low, it won’t protect someone's neck from whiplash injuries that can debilitate or kill. If a seat does not have a head restraint, don't use that seat. 

Head restraints should be adjusted so the top is about level with the top of the person's head and right up against the back of their head, so their head won’t be able to fly backwards in a crash. 

Before setting off, make it a habit to check everyone has their head restraint properly adjusted. 

Child passengers up to 150cm tall 

Drivers are legally responsible for ensuring child passengers are belted up and in a restraint compliant with the law. 

Children up to 150cm tall should be secured in a child restraint suitable for their height and weight. If they are not, they are at far greater risk of serious injury or death in a crash. 

Follow the advice below:

  • Use the appropriate child restraint for a child's size and weight.
  • Use new. A second-hand restraint could be damaged in ways you can’t see.
  • Buy the best seat on the market with the most safety features. Your child's life is priceless.
  • Restraints should carry the United Nations ‘E’ mark or a BS ‘Kitemark’.
  • Rear-facing seats are safer for babies. Do not move them up to their next restraint system until they are too tall or heavy for their rear-facing baby seat.
  • If it’s possible to do so in line with the fitting instructions, fit your child seat in the middle of the rear of your car, furthest away from the exterior.
  • Fit right. Fit your child restraint with care in line with the fitting instructions. If unsure, seek help from the manufacturer or supplier.
  • Sit right. Before every trip, check your child's restraint is still fitted correctly. Take care to ensure that the belt is correctly threaded and snug fitting. 
  • The top of your child’s head should never come above the top of their child seat.
  • If you have an old car with few safety features, change it for a car that has high star ratings for safety. See EuroNCAP for star ratings.
  • Take trains for long journeys and get out and walk for short journeys. Trains are safer, and walking helps save the planet. 


  • Carry someone else’s child unless you are certain they are in a restraint that is correct for their height and weight and properly fitted.
  • Allow your child to be carried in someone else’s vehicle unless they are in a restraint appropriate for their size and weight and properly fitted.
  • Carry extra kids with no restraints or seat belts, even on short journeys.
  • Hold a baby or child; they will fly out of your hands in a crash.
  • Put a baby or child inside your own seat belt with you - they will be crushed by the weight of your body in a crash.

If a child is over 150cm and is able to do up their own seat belt, you still have the responsibility for checking they have done so correctly, and the seatbelt is tight. Explain to children they mustn’t fiddle with or undo seat belts, and the reasons why.

Children under 150cm on school trips

If you have a child under 150cm going on a school or pre-school trip by coach or minibus, will they be appropriately restrained? Talk to your child's teacher and ask to see their transport safety policy. Ensure it requires the school or pre-school to hire a modern vehicle with three point seat belts and that your child will be securely fitted in the correct child restraint for their height and weight (either your own seat or one supplied by the transport company). 

pregnantdiagramIf using your own child restraint, you will need to check your child restraint is appropriate to fit in the vehicle being used.

Do not allow your child to travel on an old coach with only lap belts, or in someone else's car with inadequate restraints.

Direct teachers to our page trips in vehicles, which has guidance for them.

Wearing a seat belt during pregnancy

It’s important to continue wearing a seatbelt while pregnant. You should wear the lap part of the seat belt under your bump (see our diagram, right). Consider public transport when you can. You are far less likely to be involved in a crash on a train or bus. Walking is also a great exercise during pregnancy; leave the car at home for short journeys.

Page updated December 2017