What's in this guide?
- When must drivers and passengers wear a seat belt?
- What are the rules for child safety seats for children and how are these applied to children at different ages?
- Are there any seat-belt and car-seat exemptions for drivers of taxis, private hire vehicles and Ubers?
- What penalties can drivers and passengers face for not following the rules?
It’s the law that all drivers and passengers in a vehicle should wear seat belts if they are fitted. Children under 12 years old must also travel in a suitable car seat until they are taller than 135cm / 4ft 5in. A suitable car seat is one that is appropriate for the child’s height and size. The police can still issue a fine if a seat is unsuitable, as it will likely not be able to adequately protect the child in case of an accident.
Seat belt and car seat rules
Children aged 0–3 years:
These children must have a suitable child restraint to travel in the front or rear seats of a vehicle.
Children aged 3–12 years:
Assuming the child is under the 135cm / 4ft 5in height threshold, they must travel in an appropriate car seat for their age and size, whether they are traveling in the front or rear of a vehicle. Once a child passes either the age or height threshold, they may travel in the front or back of a vehicle provided they are wearing a seatbelt. However, the responsibility to make sure they do so rests with the driver and they can be fined if they fail to enforce these rules themselves.
Children aged 14 years and older:
From 14 years old, children can travel in the front or rear of a vehicle, as long as they wear a seatbelt. At this age, children are responsible for making sure they observe the law themselves and will be held responsible and even fined for not doing so.
Seat belt and car seat rules for taxis, private hire vehicles and Ubers
There are exceptions provided for taxis and similar vehicles without child safety seats. Children under 3 years old may travel on a rear seat without a seat belt. From 3 years and upwards, they must wear a seat belt.
Either the driver or a passenger can be fined by police if they aren’t wearing a seat belt. Police can issue a £100 fixed penalty notice (FPN) to each offender. The fine for a child without a seatbelt is £250 per child (payable by the driver) or a maximum £500 for a child under 14 without a car seat or seat belt (if the case goes to court).
There's no formal appeal process for FPNs. If you don't agree you've committed an offence, you may reject the FPN and you'll be asked to contest the charge in court. Should you fail to convince the court of your case, the fine handed down may increase to up to £500, not to mention your own costs. You should seek legal advice if you are considering this option.
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