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Even sturdy grandkids need a car seat


November 2018

Girl in the back of a car
Even older children still need car seats

Laws change and grandparents and indeed any adults involved in young children need to keep up to date. This is especially true with driving laws. Many of us were brought up in an era when you jumped into a car without seat belts. Children were bundled into the back with a book or two and that was it.

Today there still appears to be a lack of knowledge about car seats and children.

The law states that children under the age of 12 or under 135 centimetres tall have to use a car seat.

This means you could have a sturdy 11 year old child well over 4 foot tall who is still required to sit in a special car seat in a car.

Even if your car is well fitted with seats for grandkids, what if you are picking a grandchild up with a friend for a playdate after school, or if you agree to pick up two under 12s from a party of similar.

Legally, all the children will need their own car seat and you can be fined up to £500 for breaking this law, even if the child is tightly secured with a seatbelt.

There are exceptions. A child aged three or older can travel in the back seat without a special child car seat if the vehicle doesn’t have a seat belt. This is an exceptional case as most roadworthy cars today will have seat belts installed or if the child is in a taxi, minibus or coach. Exceptions have also been made when the child is being transported in an emergency and also there have been a couple of instances where, because there was no room for another car seat, the law was allowed to be broken.

But generally all children under 12 or 135 centimetres tall must be in a special seat.

Generally child car seats are based on the child’s weight and height, which can be tricky when you are transporting a range of different grandchildren or kids at different times.  

Generally a car seat should be rear facing until the child is over 15 months old, then the child can face forward. Also all car seats used in the UK have to be EU approved; for height based car seats this is shown by a little label showing a capital E in a circle and R129. You can also obtained child car seats based on weight and these have a label showing the capital E plus ECER44. 

Either way, with children growing all the time, it can be difficult to keep up.

The good news is that once a child weighs over 22kg, then there is an addition to the law that says children can use special child booster cushions fitted with a seat belt or harness.

Finally of course if you are fitting a baby seat in the front seat of the car, it is vital you deactivate the front airbag for that seat.

Child car seats do not come cheaply. Some baby and child car seats can cost up to £300 or more and if you are a retired grandparent, this is a lot of money to spend on occasional trips with grandkids. The good news is that fitting a child car seat has become much easier. While some are permanently fixed, there are also others that fit in using the car’s own seat belts. This means the seat can easily be swapped from car to car when needed.

There is as always quite a lot of information on the web, but one good site which also shows the sort of seats appropriate for various heights and age groups is

The main thing though is to be aware that if you are transporting children, even well beyond babyhood, seat belts may not be enough.

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