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 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?
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