Child Restraints

Child Restraints

Key Facts:

  • In 2016, 18 children under 12 years old were killed while travelling in cars in Great Britain, 247 were seriously injured and there were 5,268 child car casualties (reported to the police) in total. (RRCGB, DfT, 2017)

  • Adult seat belts do not fit children correctly, and so do not offer the same level of protection as they do for adults (although they are far better than using no restraint at all). Therefore, children need to use child car restraints, not just seat belts on their own.

  • Using an appropriate child car restraint is highly effective in reducing the risk of death or injury for child car passengers in a crash. Children using an appropriate child restraint are significantly less likely to be killed or injured than unrestrained children, and are also less likely to be killed or injured than children using adult seat belts.

  • In the UK, children (with very few exceptions) in cars, vans and other goods vehicles must travel in an appropriate child restraint from birth until either they are 135cm (4’5”) tall or have reached the age of 12 years (whichever comes first). Child car restraints must be approved to either UNECE Regulation R44 (Child Restraints) or Regulation 129 (Enhanced Child Restraints). The latter is commonly referred to as ‘i-Size.

Rearward-facing Child Restraints

  • Babies and infants need to be carried in rearward-facing baby seats. This reduces the risk of death or injury in a crash by 90% compared with being unrestrained. It is common in the UK for infants to be moved into forward-facing child seats when they reach 13kgs in weight, around 1 year old.

  • However, research in Sweden indicates that children are safer in an appropriate rearward-facing seat until they are 3 or 4 years of age, although this was compared with being in a booster seat, rather than a forward-facing seat with an integral harness, which is more common in the UK for this age group.

Forward-facing Child Restraints

  • Research in the USA found that the risk of serious injury was 78% lower for children in forward facing child restraints than for those in seat belts. Another USA study concluded that the odds of injury were 81.8% lower for toddlers in child seats than for toddlers wearing seat belts.

Booster Seats and Booster Cushions

  • Swedish research concluded that children aged 4 to 10 years who used a booster seat were 77% less likely to be injured in an accident compared with an unrestrained child. USA research found that the odds of injury were 59% lower for 4 to 7 year old children in booster seats than in seat belts.

  • Analysis of 10 years of data in the United States showed that 4 to 8 year old children in booster seats were 7.7 times less likely to suffer moderate to serious injuries in frontal and side impacts than unrestrained children, They were also 13.3 times less likely to suffer moderate to serious injuries in rear impacts and 23.6 times less likely to suffer these injuries in rollover crashes.

Risk According to Seating Position in the Car

  • It is safer for children to sit in the rear of the car than in the front. The centre rear seat is safest of all, but only if it has a 3-point seat belt and not just a lap-only belt.

Child Restraint Use

  • Observational surveys in 2008 in Great Britain found that three-quarters (74%) of 1 to 4 year old children travelling in the front of cars were using a child car restraint (a forward-facing child restraint, a booster seat or booster cushion), but most (93%) did so in the rear.

  • Older children (or 5 – 9 years) were much less likely to use child car restraints, with only 28% doing so in the front and 43% in the rear.

Incorrect Use of Child Car Restraints


  • Although child car restraints are very effective in reducing the risk of death or injury in a vehicle crash, their effectiveness is reduced if the restraint is not being used or fitted properly.

  • Using ISOFIX child car seats may reduce the likelihood of the seat being incorrectly fitted.

  • Seats which conform to the new i-Size standard are designed to provide side impact protection and keep children rearward-facing until they are at least 15 months old.

  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:16 AM
  • Last Update: 11 Dec 2017, 04:17 PM