New laws banning traditional car 'booster' seats for younger children have been delayed until next year.
Changes had been expected to come into law at the end of this year – and would see children below 123cm and 22kg banned from travelling in backless car seats.
However, the change in the law has been delayed until at least March next year – and even then parents who have already purchased a seat before the change will be allowed to continue to use them.
Currently, children weighing as little as 15kg – around three-years-old – are allowed to travel in cars while sitting on a backless booster seat.
The rules state they must stay in the booster seat until they are 12 years old, but new laws are set to be introduced after experts have claimed the type of seat is unsuitable for smaller children.
What are the new rules?
When the new law comes into place, backless booster seats will only be approved for use for children taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg.
At the moment, children weighing as little as 15kg – around three years old – can travel in backless booster seats.
However many child car seat experts agree this type of booster seat is unsuitable for young children as they do not hold them as securely as possible.
Experts say that the adult seat belt isn’t guided across their little body in the best way, and, most importantly - a booster seat offers no protection for a child if your car is involved in a side-impact crash.
How do the seats compare?
Backless car seats are temptingly cheap to buy – ranging from £6 to £30, and satisfy the current law.
However, a recent report by Which Magazine showed that they were less safe than a high-backed booster seat.
High-backed booster seats might be more expensive, but have been found to be safer.
Which? child car seat expert, Lisa Galliers said: “A decent high-backed booster seat provides better protection in a front crash, as they’re designed to guide the adult seat-belt across the child’s body properly, and our crash tests prove they offer much more protection in a side-impact crash than a backless booster seat alone.”
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Child car seat law
UK law states that children must use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm/4ft 5ins tall, whichever comes first.
Safety experts recommend that you use a child car seat for all children under 150cm/4ft 11ins. This height is the legal requirement in Ireland and also some European countries, such as Germany and France.
Children under three must be in a child car seat. If there’s no room for a third child seat in the back of your vehicle. Children aged three or under can use the front seat but they must be in a child car seat.
You can’t take children under three on an unexpected journey in a vehicle without a seat belt or the correct child car seat. The only exception to this rule is if it’s in a licensed taxi or minicab and the rear seats are separated from the driver by a fixed partition and the child travels on the rear seats.
If you ignore the law you are liable to a fine of £500 if you are taken to court.
Do I need to buy a new seat?
New additions to the child car seat regulations aren’t expected until March - but will only apply to new products appearing on the market.
So parents who want to buy a new booster seat next year will see they are no longer approved for use with children under 125cm and 22kg.
Parents who have a booster seat now will still be able to use the new seat without breaking any rules.