Do you understand the recent changes to the law for children's booster seats?

New child seat regulations are causing confusion amongst parents and it's not surprising. Whilst the new rules have come into force, they actually only apply to brand new products which are introduced to the market and not to booster seats which are already being used - or even ones (approved under the older law) being stocked in shops.

But it would seem that parents are still unsure of what this actually means so here we try and explain everything you need to know…

What is the change?

The ruling bans any new designs of backless booster seat from entering the market - the important word here being 'new'. 

All new booster seats have to comply with the new European Safety Standard R44-04, which says that a car seat must come up as high as the occupant’s shoulders at the very minimum. 

So does this mean booster "cushions" are now illegal?

NO! The aim of the new regulation is to prompt a change in behaviour with safety in mind, and to encourage parents who want to use backless boosters to only do so for older children.

If you already own and use a booster cushion, you are perfectly okay to carry on using them. Safety experts still believe it's much safer for a child to have a basic booster "cushion" that none at all however expert advice would always recommend a high back booster as it will offer better levels of protection in the event of an accident.

It is still fine for car seat suppliers to sell backless seats providing they were designed and introduced to the market before the new rules came in. There is also still some demand for the smaller booster "cushions", as some of the bigger seats don’t always fit well in smaller or older cars.

The changes will happen slowly as new models come onto the market and parents decide to follow the new guidelines when purchasing a booster seat. 

How will this new booster seat law affect me?

If you're purchasing a new booster cushion from March you may be asked to confirm your child's weight and height, so it would be advisable to measure and weigh your child before going to make a purchase. New products will also be labelled with weight and height restrictions.

All child seats sold in the UK and Europe must display a type approval label to show that they comply. You’ll normally find this built into the stitching on the back of the seat and where owners are less likely to remove it. If the type approval label says R44-04 on it, then your seat complies with the very latest legislation.

What else do I need to look for when buying a child seat?

There are are lots of different types of car seats available so take your time when choosing. We would always recommend taking your child with you and visiting a retailer who has trained staff and a variety of seats for you to try.

Remember to check: -

  • The seat is suitable for your child's height, weight and age
  • The seat you are buying is suitable for your car
  • The seat meets regulations
  • You are clear on how to fit the seat into your car (some seats have a variety of options). Any reputable retailer will be happy to spend the time showing you how.

At what age can children use which seat?

Choosing the right seat is not just about your child's age - their weight and height will also have an influence on the seat they need to use whilst travelling in a car. The laws around car seats can be very confusing so we'd always recommend visiting a retailer with trained staff who can help you choose the correct seat for your child.

Will I be fined if I get it wrong?

While a deliberate disregard for your child's safety can and should be punished, you’re only really likely to get fined if you allow your children to travel in the car with no restraints at all, or if your child is not the correct weight or height for the seat they have, for example they are 14kg and using any type of booster seat, which has a minimum weight of 15kg stated on it.

UK law states that children must use a car seat until they are 12 years old OR 135cm/4ft 5in tall, whichever comes first. However, safety experts would still recommend that you use a child car seat for all children under 150cm/4ft 11in . This is the legal requirement in Ireland and some other European countries, such as Germany and France.

On the lookout for a car that can accommodate child car seats comfortably and safely?

Here are our top 3 picks from the Suzuki, Nissan and Subaru ranges: