Child car seats
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Car seats are essential if you want to protect your children when they are in the car. Even in a minor crash, an unrestrained child would be thrown about, potentially injuring themselves and others.
He or she could also be thrown from the car, with even more serious consequences.
What's more, travelling with children who are not in the correct car seat or car restraint for their size, age and weight can be illegal.
Car seat laws
The use of an appropriate car seat, like the wearing of a seatbelt, is the responsibility of the person driving the car at least until the passenger involved is at least 14 years of age.
In the UK, children must use the correct car seat until they reach a height of at least 135cm or the age 12 unless, for example, they are on a short journey in a taxi that does not have a child seat, or are at least three and sitting in the back of a car that is not fitted with seatbelts.
Short emergency trips are also permitted.
Types of car seats
The type of car seat your child needs depends on how much he or she weighs.
For babies that weigh up to 13kg, a rear-facing baby seat is the correct choice (although youngsters weighing between 9kg and 18kg can also use forward-facing baby seats).
Children weighing 15kg to 25kg, meanwhile, should be put in forward-facing car or booster seats, and those weighing more than 22kg should have a booster cushion that is used in conjunction with the car's seatbelts.
Before buying a car seat, however, it is also important to ensure that it will fit in your car. The shape of car seats, the length of seatbelts and the position of seatbelt anchor points differ from one make and model to another. So check that the seat you choose is suitable for your car, or cars, as well as your child.
Because only EU-approved baby seats, car seats or booster cushions can be used in the UK, it is also worth making sure yours complies by looking for a label showing a capital 'E' in a circle especially if you're buying, or being given a second-hand car seat.
Car seat laws in other countries
If you are planning a driving holiday to another country with your family, it is crucial to check the laws on car seats in that country before setting off.
This is the case even if you are staying within Europe, because the rules may differ slightly from one country to another. In France, for example, children under 10 must be seated in the rear of the car in an appropriate car seat and wearing a seatbelt.
However, in Germany, while the age at which children can stop using car seats is 12 the same as in the UK the height restriction is slightly higher at 150cm. That means a child who no longer needs a child seat in the UK may still require one while you are driving through Germany.
Child seat checklist
•Make sure that your child has the right type of child seat or booster for his or her weight
•Ensure that the seat or booster cushion fits in your car and is properly secured every time you take a trip.
•Check that any booster seat raises your child into the correct position so that the seatbelt fits well
•Make sure that your child knows that it is against the law for them not to wear a seatbelt and use an appropriate child restraint.
•Look out for cars fitted with ISOFIX points these allow car seats to be quickly and easily plugged into a fixed point if you have children and are thinking of buying a new car.
This article has been researched and written by whatcar.com's car insurance partner, MoneySupermarket