New regulations regarding the sale and use of booster cushions in the UK will take affect by March 2017.

In short, the law requires all children travelling in the front or rear seat of any car to use the correct child car seat until they are either 135 cm in height or 12 years old (which ever they reach first). After this they must use an adult seat belt.

The new rules mean that manufacturers will no longer be allowed to introduce new models of backless booster seats (booster cushions) for children shorter than 125cm or weighing less than 22kg.

This change does not affect existing models of seats or cushions; they will only apply to new booster cushions, not ones which are already in use and meet existing safety standards. So, parents who use old booster cushions will not be breaking the law if they continue to use them after the rule change. They will not be required to buy new booster seats to meet the rule change.

This change means that anyone buying a booster cushion should take extra care to read the manufacturer’s labels and instructions in order to ensure that the one they select is appropriate for their child’s use.

Australian law

Australian national guidelines recommend infants are safest if they remain in their rear facing restraint as long as they still fit in their rear facing restraint. While the law allows children over 6 months to use either a rear facing restraint or a forward facing restraint, the rear facing restraint offers better protection as long as the child fits in it.

Once a child is too tall for their rear facing child restraint, they should use a forward-facing child restraint (with built-in 6 point harness) until they are too tall for it. While the law allows children 4 years and older to use either a forward-facing child restraint or a booster seat, the forward-facing child restraint offers better protection as long as the child fits in it.

Once a child is too tall for a forward facing child restraint, they should use a booster seat with a lapsash seatbelt until they are tall enough to fit properly into an adult seatbelt.

While the law allows children 7 years and older to use either a booster seat or a seatbelt by itself, a booster seat offers better protection as long as the child fits in it.

Children 12 years and under should sit in the rear seat (if there is one).  Injury risk to children aged 12 and under is nearly double in the front seat compared to the back seat, irrespective of restraint type.

Assessing whether a child is ready to use an adult seat belt

The “5-step test” can be used to determine whether a child is big enough to obtain optimal protection from adult seat belt.
1. Can the child sit with their back against the vehicle seat back?

2. Do the child’s knees bend in front of the edge of the seat?

3. Does the sash (shoulder) belt sit across the middle of the shoulder, not on the neck or out near the arm?

4. Is the lap belt sitting low across the hips touching the thighs?

5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

Why the uncertainty?

According to the new UK laws my son, at just 6-7 years old, would have been tall enough to no longer use a booster seat.  And my 12 year old son would definitely have been tall enough to be using the front seat of the car from around 10-11 years of age. They are both quite tall.

Meanwhile if I follow the Australian guide “5 step test” my youngest is still, at 8, not ready to be using an adult seat belt. Although that can vary in different cars.

In chatting with other parents they also shared similar concerns.

I would definitely be using my own discretion and keeping my son in his booster. However I am concerned that many parents would feel like they should to stick to the guidelines and would then be putting their young children at risk by ditching the booster seat.

Again it is a good reminder that – While the law allows children 7 years and older to use just an adult seatbelt, a booster seat offers better protection as long as the child fits in it.

What do you think of the new UK laws on kids in cars?

Share your comments below.

Image: Getty 

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  • i would keep my kids in the booster seat as long as possible just for their safety. You can’t predict the future and the booster seat provides the best protection. Don’t risk it. We only have to focus on the aussie laws :)


  • I think it’s also confusing for the children ! My son is nearly 12 year old and about 125 cm tall (or small). Like his 1 year older sister (who’s small as well) they both want to sit in the front and absolutely don’t want to sit on a booster.


  • I get the safety aspect but do those in charge understand the practicalities? We had twins & a singleton all in baby & booster seats at the same time. It was a nightmare- we had to buy a new car because even three of the narrowest seats we could find would not fit across the back of our sedan (& we didn’t want a 7 seater because the twin pram & groceries wouldn’t fit in the back of them & we weren’t buying a people mover). When the kids were all in booster seats (all across the back of a sedan wagon) we had trouble clicking them and had to buy extension belts. So much easier now they are past all that.


  • I’m sorry but keeping a child in a car seat till twelve is ridiculous. I’ll use both my better judgement and listen to my child’s comfort needs.


  • Lets face it we all just want our kids to be safe so whatever the new findings figure out is the best thing to do then we will do what is best.


  • 5 or 6 point. Even racing harnesses are only 5 as far as I know. Admittedly I haven’t checked those in a racing car for quite awhile. Good quality booster seats have inbuilt harnesses in them to be used for as long as they fit and the car seatbelt fits into the back of the booster seat to stop it from moving on the seat at all. The length of a child also has to be taken into account in deciding how long it is safe to use rear facing. Some have much longer legs than others. Some also suffer from travel sickness and are much more likely to choke rearwards facing. Drivers also can’t see if the child’s face is in the sun, the heat of which comes in through the glass. The last booster cushion I saw was not very strong at all.


  • My daughter stayed in a booster seat for the recommended time.


  • It is hard to keep track of the rules and then the changes to the rules. I have kept my boys in boosters as long as I could.


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