Child Car Seat Safety Abroad

Child Safety In Road Traffic Accidents


We all know that using the correct child restraint is crucial in ensuring our children's safety when travelling in cars.  Charities and local Councils are continuing to educate the public in this area, and free child seat checks are becoming more and more common.  However, although we are becoming better educated about child seat safety and our obligations as drivers here in the UK, we should not forget that restraining our children correctly is just as important when driving abroad.  Victoria Gallanders from our Birmingham based international claims team examines the many issues that face parents when driving abroad.

The Facts

In even a low speed collision, an unrestrained child can be thrown forward with a force of up to 60 times their body weight.  They could not only injure themselves but also seriously injure or even kill other passengers inside the vehicle.   Small children are also at risk of being thrown through a window in a crash.  It is therefore vital that our children are correctly restrained when travelling by car, and this can only be done by using the correct child seat and seatbelt.  Holding onto a child on your lap is not a safe way to travel, because in a collision a child would be torn away from your arms no matter how strongly you try to grip onto them.

The Law

The law on child car seats changed in England in 2006 and there are now new requirements depending on the age and height of your child.  Since this change in the law, there has been a lot of publicity to raise parents’ awareness of their legal obligations.   However, it is easy for parents to forget that these obligations vary in different countries. 

Whilst the EU has created new laws to harmonise child car safety across Europe, the local laws are not always the same in each European country.  If you travel further afield, such as to the US, the laws will vary further still.  Some foreign countries have stricter rules than England, which should be complied with.   For example, the age at which a child is allowed to travel in the front seat can vary from country to country.  In contrast, some countries have less strict rules than we are used to in England.  Parents may therefore want to do more than they are obliged to by local laws to ensure their children's safety.

What You Can Do

When travelling abroad in your own car, it is important that you research the countries that you will be driving in.  You should ensure that the car seats that you have comply with local laws, as you could face police fines or charges if you do not carry children safely.  Your travel agent or the foreign country's Embassy should be able to assist you with any questions that you have.

If you choose to hire a car in a foreign country, again it is important that you do some preparation ahead of your visit.   It can be expensive to hire a car seat from a car hire company, and you may therefore want to take your own.  If so, you should make sure that your car seat meets the requirements of the country that you are travelling to.  If you are travelling to your destination by plane, you may also wish to check with your airline about any excess luggage charges that you may have to pay.

Wherever you choose to travel with your family, drive safely and have a good holiday!