/ Health, Motoring, Parenting, Travel & Leisure

Do all grandparents use a child car seat for their grandchildren?

Our latest research finds that one in five grandparents are not using a child car seat when regularly driving their grandchildren aged 10 and under. The problem is, this could break the law.

Travelling with children is not an easy task. It requires a fair amount of preparation – and that’s even before you step foot outside the door. Folding the pram into the car boot, making sure you’ve not forgotten anything vital like the change bag, a spare change of clothing or a small child. Oh and then there’s the in-car entertainment.

All this and you could just be popping out to do the school run. So there’s a lot to think about, and sometimes things get missed off. Forgetting nappies or the change bag is going to be a pain, but if you’re missing a car seat it could land you on the wrong side of the law.

Our research

One in five grandparents admitted they were not using any child car seat when regularly driving their grandchildren aged 10 and under, in a survey of 313 Which? members. The problem is this breaks the law.

Child car seats are a legal requirement. Not having one is unsafe for your young passengers and could land you with a hefty fine.

It’s easy to say ‘well I’m only going 5 minutes down the road’, or ‘I’m a careful driver’, but the reality is no one can know if or when they could be involved in an accident.

Getting it right

Whether you’re the parent or the grandparent, it’s down the driver to make sure anyone under 12 is strapped in correctly when they’re in your car.

Current UK law states that you must use the correct child car seat when carrying all children up to 135cm or 12 years of age – whichever comes first.

The fine for not using the appropriate child car seat is a fixed-rate penalty of £100, rising up to £500 if the matter is taken to court.

Our research found that of those grandparents who are using car seats, one third of them are using backless booster seats, and in some cases for children as young as three.

Booster seats are temptingly cheap, and perfectly legal to use. But while using any seat is better than using none at all, booster seats offer very little protection in the event of a crash, particularly side impact protection.

What should you do?

It’s important that any children travelling in your car are in the right seat and that is correctly fitted.

UK law for car seats only applies up to 135cm tall (or 12 years of age), but some safety experts recommend that you use a car seat for all children under 150cm/4ft 11in. This height is the legal requirement in Ireland and also some European countries, such as Germany and France.

For children weighing more than 36kg (5st 10lb) but under 150cm/4ft 11in, our advice is to go by height, not weight. Our child car seat advice can help you to choose the most suitable car seat and we have a free downloadable guide (PDF) to help check if they have fitted their seat correctly.

Did you know these legal requirements, and does this impact you?


A very useful and thoughtful Conversation. Congratulations.

We always use child seats for our two grand children, but the ‘jigsaw’ clip is very frustrating and take far to long to get right at an angel! Grrrrr.

ronnie says:
” … an angel … ”
Guardian, or ”right”?

;-))…………………… I trust that I’m laughing WITH you.


Biggles says:
12 December 2015

Ah. That’s a bit different to the ‘Need-to-know number’ in this week’s ‘Weekly Scoop’ email, which says that ‘Just 22% of grandparents use a child car seat’.

Only one in five NOT using a car seat, as above, while not good, sounds more likely and isn’t that bad, then.

Car seat is a permanent feature in my car. I never know if I might be called on to collect from school if my daughter’s running late. I don’t think she’d let me take my grandson out in the car if I didn’t have the child seat!!

I think readers should also be aware of the exceptions permitted under the law. These include:

Unexpected journeys: If the correct child seat isn’t available, a child over 3 years of age can use an adult seat belt if the journey is all of the following:
over a short distance

Great input – T U
Do you have a Cop Proof Ref I can quote, PLEASE ?

Child car seat regs:


Ian says:59 seconds ago
Child car seat regs:
Fantastic = Thank you.
”Unexpected journeys
If the correct child seat isn’t available, a child over 3 years of age can use an adult seat belt if the journey is all of the following:

over a short distance
You can’t take children under 3 in a vehicle without a seat belt or the correct child car seat (except a taxi or minicab).”

This comment was removed at the request of the user

This comment was removed at the request of the user

We as grandparents have a Which recommended child seat for our grandson, likewise our son does.
However we are mortified that his mother just uses a booster seat often without belt restraint. We dread that that an accident could happen.

Paul Culling says:
12 December 2015

My grandson is 6 years old and already 4’6″ and so legally doesn’t need a child seat. The information in here about the law in other countries setting the height limit at 4’11” is useful as we have continued to use his child seat although I suspect it will be too physically small before he gets to this higher limit

I think this an appalling indictment and poor reflection on grandparental responsibility!
Would drivers leave fine bone china or other delicate items sitting unprotected on a car back seat?

I have been agonising over this issue. Our granddaughter (8 yrs, but small for her age) has just grown out of her Group 1 seat, which served her very well indeed. Having seen the “Which?” report (and especially the video) we aimed to get a Best Buy Group 3 seat for her. However, her parents have bought a cheap booster seat for their car. She likes this, and was affronted when we said we planned to buy a child seat with a high back. She mentioned that some of her friends (perhaps a bit bigger – who knows) just use the adult belts with no booster, and it’s clear that she regards a high-back seat as babyish. I guess that there’s a lot of peer pressure too, and I don’t want her to be laughed at by her friends!

While I respect the “Which?” view that we should not buy a booster seat, I would have found it helpful if the child seat reviews took into account the sort of problem we face. For example, we don’t know if all booster seats are equally bad, or whether some are better than others.

When it comes to backless boosters they are all equally bad as they don’t offer any protection in the event of an impact, only a higher seating position to place the belt in the proper location. Given that bone development is incomplete until approximately the age of 6 or 7, and rib position isn’t finalised until the age of about 10, it’s important to keep the additional protection offered by high back boosters for as long as possible.

I’m not a grandparent but a parent our 7 year old still uses as high backed Group 3 seat – however since our youngest is now big enough for a Group 3 seat I am looking for an additional seat since we have 2 cars and need to coordinate pickups. Talking to other parents that we know – we seem to be the only ones using a high backed seat for a 7 year old – everyone else is using cheap booster seats. Because we have inherited a Group 3 Britax seat from grandparents we plan to use this for longer journeys in the bigger car and get a booster cushion for the smaller car. However our 4 year old will continue to always use a high backed seat. It would be helpful if Which compared booster cushions – it is inevitable that in practical modern life a 7+ year old will use one. When it comes to children’s parties other parents expect one so they can give lifts (sometimes with 3 kids in the back).

Thanks to Mark for the helpful response.

Hello all, some new Which? research I wanted to share with you:

Which? has discovered that more than half of parents of babies are still not aware of i-Size, a change to the child car seat law. That’s despite i-Size becoming part of the child car seats law 12 months ago. In February 2016 we questioned 1,622 parents, with at least one child aged five years or younger, on what they knew about i-Size. 59% of parents, with a baby under one, admitted they’d never heard it.

Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/04/new-parents-unaware-of-change-to-child-car-seats-law-438930/ – Which?

I have such a dilemma, if I go to my daughter’s at anytime before my grandbaby go to nursery ( 4+3 years) she expects me to take them WITHOUT car seats and just use the seatbelts !!! I refused the last time for her scream at me ” you have done it before” what can i do 😥😥

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