Tips for driving with children in the car

Friday 9th April 2021

Looking to embark on a long journey with the kids, but unsure how to a) keep them entertained; b) how to establish ground rules; and c) adhere to child car seat laws? That’s where our guide comes in. Providing you with tips for driving with children in the car, as well as detailed advice on child car seat safety laws, you can relax in the knowledge of being thoroughly prepared for your next car journey with the whole family.

Driving with children

Child car seat laws

According to the UK law, all children need to use a child car seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first – unless they fall under the exceptions rule (more on that later!). At this point, they can graduate to a standard adult seat belt. However, it’s important to note that the car seat which you choose can be dependent on either height or weight:

Based on height

Seats based on height are known as ‘i-Size’ seats, and they must be rear-facing until the child is over 15 months old. At this point, they will be able to use a forward-facing child car seat. It’s important to ensure that the seat is suitable for the height of your child, so make a note how tall your child is before you go shopping!

Based on weight

You can also choose your child’s car seat based on their weight, which gives you a few options to choose from.

  • 0kg to 10kg: Lie-flat or ‘lateral’ baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier, or rear-facing baby seat using a harness
  • 0kg to 13kg: Rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness
  • 9kg to 18kg: Rear or forward-facing baby seat using a harness or safety shield
  • 15kg to 25kg: Rear or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield
  • 22kg to 36kg: Rear or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield

Source: GOV.UK

What are the exceptions to child car seat laws?

  • Travelling by taxi – if you are not provided with a car seat, the child can go without one, as long as they sit in the back. If they are aged 3 and above, they must use an adult seat belt.
  • Travelling by coach – again, if a car seat is not provided, the children can travel without.
  • Unexpected travel – sometimes, unexpected travel arises – meaning you need to travel an ‘unexpected, necessary or short distance’. In this instance, the child (if they are over 3), can use an adult seat belt instead.
  • Fitting in 3 car seats – if you don’t have the room in the back to fit in a third car seat for a child, in this case, you are allowed to use it in the front instead.

General tips for driving with children in the car

Now we’ve ensured that the seat is correct for your child, and it’s fitted properly, there are some more generic top tips for driving with children to take note of!

  • Ensure your vehicle is safe – before you head off, make sure your car is prepared for the long journey. This includes checking elements such as tyres, lights, brakes, fluid levels and emergency equipment. One of the best ways to do this is to book your vehicle in for an interim car service before your journey.
  • Prepare for the journey – snacks, drinks, games – the lot! Ensure you’re thoroughly prepared for your journey from not only a personal standpoint, but a safety aspect – carrying items such as a spare tyre, jump cables, a tyre jack, blankets and a torch.
  • Ground rules – ensuring that the kids know that shouting, throwing things and being generally boisterous is not allowed in the car, and highlight the dangers to them of doing this while you’re driving.
  • Take plenty of breaks – make time for breaks during the journey, and make sure the children know when the breaks are coming up. This way, they can bear that in mind if they need the toilet/want to stretch their legs.
  • Leave at the right time – if you’re concerned about the kids making a fuss during the journey, heading off early morning may help control that – as they could be sleepy enough to stay still for a longer period of time.
  • Entertainment – ensure the little ones have enough entertainment to last them the journey. This could include colouring books, screens such as tablets or iPads, or books. However, it’s important to encourage them to look up and out the window as often as they can to prevent car sickness.
  • Car games – when their own means of entertainment tires them out, be prepared for some fun car games – such as ‘I spy’ and ‘road trip bingo’!
  • Always carry a plastic bag! – travel sickness is common for young children on long journeys, especially when sitting in the back of the car. Top tip: ensure your plastic bag doesn’t have any holes in before it’s used!

Ensure your car is child-ready by booking in for your annual or six-monthly service now at Formula One Autocentres. For more help and advice on driving with children, get in touch with our team of experts now.

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