• What is the current car seat law?
  • How the car seat law could change soon
  • A handy age and weight chart to make it simpler

Simon Bellamy, Managing Director of the In Car Safety Centre, which is regarded as a 'centre of excellence' with regards to offering information on child seats, highlights the details of the law changes.

What is the current car seat law?

To cause more confusion, there are actually two separate, simultaneous car seat laws that are observed in the UK.

1. The ECE R44/03 and R44/04 regulations are based on the age and weight of your child

2. The newer ECE R129 or 'i-Size' regulation applies to children aged under 15 months and takes height into consideration as well

The i-Size law, which was passed in the UK in April 2015, hasn't replaced the ECE R44/03 and R44/04 regulations; instead, they run alongside each other.

Will my old car seat be okay?

Yes, as long as your car seat conforms to either the ECE R44/03 and R44/04 regulations or the newer i-Size law, it will be okay. Essentially, don't worry if you have a seat from before April 2015 that you bought with the R44 laws in mind.

If you're not sure, use the ECE R44/04 chart below to work out the right type of car seat for your child.

Why have the laws been changed?

The government considers classifying car seats based on a child's height, as well as their age and weight, to be easier and safer. As a result, height information will be added to all seats. 

A special label that indicates the compatibility with certain vehicles will also be added to the seat. Always check online or in-store to see if a seat is compatible with your car before buying it – and check where the seat can be placed in the car with the manufacturer.

How will it affect me?

If you are a first time parent then you should consider purchasing seats that meet the new R129 i-Size regulation. Seats adhering to the R129 Regulation are tested more rigorously than those with R44 labels, so definitely worth considering. If they are R129 approved, they will display 'i-Size' on the label  

The government states that these height-based i-Size seats must be rear-facing until your child is 15 months old; after 15 months, your child can use a forward-facing seat. Bear in mind that not all cars are currently compatible with i-Size seats, so before you buy anything new, check the car seat manufacturer's compatibility list.

If you have an ISOFIX car and car seat (some cars have been constructed to fix to certain child car seats using metal bars – these are ISOFIX car seats) you should also make sure you check that your car will comply with an i-Size seat.

How will it affect my child?

The new laws are intended to protect a child when they are most vulnerable. At the In Car Safety Centre, we believe that the longer a child travels rear facing, the safer it is. We are finding that more parents are transporting their children in this way until they are three or four years old. Put simply, a child's disproportionately heavy head is better supported in a rear-facing seat.

If your child's car seat gets damaged, you should buy a new one. Your car insurance may cover replacement child car seats.

Will the car seat laws change again?

A number of further changes to the child car seat laws could be on the way, specifically focused on children over the age of 15 months. One law change that has been proposed, but not passed, would mean that only children taller than 125cm and heavier than 22kg could use backless booster seats. 

Booster seats might be covered by upcoming regulation later this year or early next year, while seats that are secured by the adult seatbelt could see changes in 2018.

Any other advice?

Buying online is fine but it's difficult to get the expertise and information required. Although it can be confusing and complicated to find the most suitable car seat – only made more difficult by the fact that two laws exist simultaneously – the main thing is to make sure that your seat complies with either the R44 or R129 laws, and fits into your car.

You can read more about the child car booster seat regulations and why they are changing here.