What does the new law say?
The new law bans manufacturers from introducing new models of backless booster seats for children under a certain height and weight. From 1st March 2017, backless booster seats will be considered unsuitable for children under 125cm or weighing less than 22kgs (3st 6.5lbs) - that's the average height and weight of a 6-8year old. Companies will only be permitted to manufacture new backless booster seats for children above this height or weight. The old law only restricted backless booster seats for children weighing less than 15kg (2st 2lbs). The change in legislation is one of the initiatives to offer more protection to children in the event of a collision.
Only once a child reaches 12 years old or exceeds 125cm in height - whichever comes first, then they are allowed to travel without a child seat and must wear an adult seatbelt. If a child is under the age of 14 and found to be not buckled up correctly in the vehicle, parents or drivers can face fines up to £500.
Babies under 9kg must only travel in the car in a baby carrier, and if you have a baby under 15 months old, they must now travel in a rear-facing height-based seat known as an 'i-Size' seat. These car seats should be replaced when a baby's head is level with the top of the seat.
However old your child, their car seat must be EU approved to be used in the UK. EU approval can be distinguished by an orange ‘approved’ label, on which is a capital E and the code R129, which signifies that it is a safe and suitable seat to buy. Parents should also ensure only a diagonal 3-point seat belt is used to fit a car seat for your child unless the seat is specifically designed for use with a lap belt or your car has ISOFIX anchor points.
It is safer for children and babies to travel in the rear of the car, however, if your baby seat is fitted to the front passenger seat, rather than the rear seats, you must deactivate any front airbags. If you must put a forward-facing child seat in the front of the vehicle, where there is an airbag, ensure the car seat is as far back as possible to maximise the distance between the child and the airbag. Always follow the advice from your car manufacturer and we also recommend notifying your insurance company before deactivating an airbag.
You should also not fit a child car seat in any side-facing seats.
Will you get in trouble when using old baby car seats?
The new regulation only affects new car seats. This means that you won't get in trouble with transportation authorities if you are using an old car seat purchased before February 2017 for your child. So you don't need to dispose of that seat if it's still in a good condition.
How is the law going to affect you?
For those with the old models of backless seats, you won't be forced to dispose of them. But if you are planning to acquire a new booster cushion from March 2017, you will be required to confirm your child's weight and height for you to be given the appropriate seat.
If your child is smaller than the above-stipulated conditions, then you will be required to purchase a high-backed booster seat. These seats offer more safety to small children than the backless booster seats.
At Westwood Commercials, we recommend parents and guardians to acquire these high-backed booster cushions to avoid improve the safety of their babies, as well as stay away from trouble with the authority. These seats will serve your baby or child until they reach the required age to use normal seats. If you need any help or advice with choosing or using the correct seat for your car, visit ROSPA's Child Car Seat website.
The law recognises there are some exceptional circumstances which allow children to travel without the use of a booster seat, such as an unexpected emergency over a short distance – but the child must be over the age of three and still wearing a seatbelt.
Mums and dads who do not comply with the new laws risk a fine of up to £500.
Why are backless booster cushions not banned completely?
The issue is not about doing away with the backless seats; the main concern is to discourage or reduce the number of backless booster seats for the safety of children. Of course, there is a better alternative for parents, which is the high-backed booster seats. The government still recognises that some parents need these backless cushions, especially those who have small family cars. So, doing away with the high-backed seats will be a big disadvantage to some families.
Don't panic: the law is there to protect your child. Your old backless seat will still do but it's better to get a high-backed booster cushion to enhance safety and be in line with the latest law.