Whether it’s a weekend getaway, a cross-country road trip, or just the daily school run, sharing the journey with your little ones can create lasting memories. However, ensuring their safety and comfort during car journeys is important. In this guide, we will explore the essential aspects of travelling with children in cars from common car seat myths to where children can sit in the car.
Buckle up and get ready to embark on a family adventure while prioritising safety for every passenger on board.
Children in cars and the law
According to UK law, all occupants, including children over 12 or taller than 135 cm, must wear a seatbelt when travelling in a car.
There are exceptions to these rules in certain circumstances for children, such as if the car doesn’t have seat belts, for short-distance taxis and private hire vehicles, or in exceptional cases for medical reasons.
Children must use a child car seat until they reach 135 cm in height or 12 years old, whichever comes first. The type of child seat required depends on the child’s height and weight.
For further information, there is more detail on the gov.uk website.
Failure to comply with child car seat laws can result in fines and penalty points on your driving licence.
When can a child sit in the front seat
Babies must use a rear-facing baby seat in the rear of the car until they are at least 15 months old. They can only travel in the front seat if no rear seats are available, or if the rear seats are already occupied by other children under 3 years old. Children can sit in the front seat of a car from 12 years old or 135cm, whichever comes first.
If a child is using a rear-facing child seat in the front, you must deactivate any front passenger airbags to ensure their safety.
Travelling with babies and infants in the car
Travelling with babies and infants in the car can be challenging, but with careful planning and preparation, it is manageable. Here are some tips to help make your car journey smoother and safer:
- Check the Car Seats Fit: Ensure that the car seat fits your child snugly and is appropriate for their age, weight, and height. Check the seat’s weight and height limits to ensure it’s suitable for your child’s size.
- Plan Frequent Breaks: Babies and infants can get restless during long car rides. Plan for frequent breaks to feed, change nappies, and allow them to stretch and move around a bit.
- Pack Essentials: Pack a bag with all the essentials, including nappies, wipes, extra clothing, bottles, formula or breast milk, dummy, and any necessary medication.
- Install Sunshades: Use sunshades on the windows to protect your baby from direct sunlight and keep the car cooler. Make sure they are securely attached and don’t obstruct the driver’s view.
- Use Mirrors: Install a rear-facing baby mirror to see your baby in the rearview mirror. This allows you to check on them without turning around, reducing distractions.
- Maintain a Comfortable Temperature: Babies can be sensitive to temperature changes. Use climate control to maintain a comfortable environment in the car and dress your baby in layers so you can adjust their clothing as needed.
- Drive During Nap Time: If possible, plan your car trip during your baby’s nap time. A sleeping baby is less likely to get fussy.
- Ensure Proper Installation: Double-check that your child’s car seat is correctly installed and securely fastened. You can have it inspected by a certified technician to ensure it’s properly installed.
Remember that safety is paramount when travelling with babies and infants in the car. Always follow the law and recommendations for child safety seats and ensure that everyone in the vehicle is properly strapped in with a seatbelt.
Carrying other people’s children safely
Carrying other people’s children in your car is a significant responsibility. Whether you’re a parent dropping off the kids at school or providing transportation services, it’s essential to prioritise safety at all times. Here are some specific tips for safely transporting other people’s children in your vehicle:
- Check Car Seats and Seat Belts: Make sure that all children are securely and appropriately restrained in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts according to their age, size, and weight, checking them regularly for safety.
- Proper Seating Arrangements: Ensure that each child is seated in an appropriate position based on their age and size. Younger children should sit in the back seat, preferably in rear-facing car seats, if they are under 3 years old and never in the front seat with an active airbag.
- Plan Routes and Stops: Plan your route in advance, considering the shortest, safest route to your destination. Schedule breaks for toilet use, stretching, and snacks, especially on long trips.
- Childproof Your Vehicle: Remove any potential hazards from your car, such as small objects that could be choking hazards or heavy items that could become loose in the event of sudden stops or accidents.
- Supervise Children: Ensure that children remain seated during the entire journey. Minimise any disruptive behaviour and maintain a calm atmosphere in the car.
- Emergency Equipment: Have a well-equipped first-aid kit. Be familiar with basic first-aid procedures and know how to handle common childhood medical issues like allergies or motion sickness.
Common myths around travelling with children in the car
Myth: Children are safe as long as they are in their parent’s lap.
Fact: This is extremely dangerous and illegal in many places. Always use appropriate car seats for children based on their age, weight, and height.
Myth: It’s safe for children to sit in the front seat as long as they’re in a car seat.
Fact: It’s generally safer for children to sit in the back seat until they reach a certain age usually 12 years or older, as the airbags in the front seat can be dangerous for young children.
Myth: Booster seats are only necessary for older children.
Fact: Booster seats are essential for children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seats but are not yet tall enough to use the adult seat belt safely. Laws regarding booster seat use vary by location but generally a child should be using a booster seat up until the age of 12 years old.
Myth: You can hold a baby in your arms while driving slowly.
Fact: It is never safe to hold a baby in your arms while driving. Infants should always be secured in an appropriate rear-facing car seat.
Myth: Children don’t need to wear seat belts for short trips.
Fact: Regardless of the duration of the trip, children should always wear seat belts and be in an appropriate car seat.
Myth: Children don’t need car seats in taxis.
Fact: Most jurisdictions require children to be in car seats or booster seats in taxis. Consider bringing your own car seat when travelling with a child. In the UK if the child is over 3 years old they can just wear a seatbelt in the UK.
Myth: Car seats are unnecessary for older children.
Fact: Depending on their age, size, and weight, older children may still need booster seats or appropriate restraints. The UK government advise that children older than 12 years no longer require a booster seat.
Myth: It’s safe for children to move around the car while driving.
Fact: Children should remain seated and buckled up at all times while the vehicle is in motion. Unrestrained movement can be dangerous and distracting for the driver.
It is important to note that regulations can change, and it’s essential to check the latest guidelines from the UK government or a reliable source to ensure you are following the most up-to-date rules and recommendations regarding child seating in cars. Additionally, safety should always be the top priority, so make sure the child is correctly secured in an appropriate car seat for their age, height, and weight.
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