When can a child travel without a car seat?

When can a child travel without a car seat

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A car seat is the most important piece of safety equipment you will buy for your child. It cushions and protects them in the event of an accident, helping reduce the risk of injury and death. The law is very clear about when children should travel in car seats and the rules about the types of seat they must use at different ages.

But what about situations where there is no such facility available? When can a child travel without a car seat? 

There are rules set down for these eventualities. Although every parent would obviously prefer to adhere to the strictest safety standards at all times, there may occasionally come a time when the child has to travel without a car seat. Here are the acceptable circumstances, according to the law.


When can a child travel without a car seat?

No seatbelt available

If there is no seatbelt installed in a car, a child aged three or over is allowed to sit in the back seat of that vehicle without a car seat or seatbelt. It goes without saying that, although this is legal, it is also incredibly dangerous and should only be considered in the most extreme of circumstances. The same ruling applies to vans. 

However, you can’t let a child under three travel without a car seat or seat belt in such a vehicle, unless it is a taxi or minicab. 

Unexpected journeys

If the journey is unexpected, completely necessary and over a short distance, children of three and over can use an adult seatbelt. This might be for an emergency or some other reason.

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But you need to be able to justify the necessity of the journey in order to let the child travel without a car seat. 

Once again, children under three cannot travel without car seats for these unexpected journeys unless it is in a minicab or taxi. 

When can a child travel without a car seat

Private hire vehicles

You can take children in private hire vehicles such as taxis and minicabs without a car seat. The ruling is that those aged three and over must use an adult seatbelt in this eventuality. Those under three must not wear an adult seatbelt.

Both must be on the rear seat.

Neither of these situations are ideal, of course, but they allow those without cars and access to car seats the ability to move around if the journey is not viable on public transport.

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Some taxi companies offer the use of car seats in their vehicles, but availability is often limited. It is certainly always worth asking when you book the private hire vehicle, as having a child in the proper, age-appropriate car seat is preferable to allowing them to travel with no protection or using a seatbelt that is designed for adults rather than children. 

It is also often possible to bring your own car seat with you and install it in the taxi. This is dependent on the seat fitting into that particular make of car as well as the practicality of transporting the car seat at either end of the journey. 

Coaches and minibuses

There is no requirement for the companies that run coaches or minibuses to provide car seats for children. However, you should ask the operator if they will install one or to see if it would be possible to fit your own car seat into their vehicle, should that be practical. 

A child can travel without a car seat on a coach or minibus if there is no belt or seat available. On a minibus, a child of three or older is required to use a car seat if there is one or to use an adult seatbelt in any seat behind the driver if there is a belt but no car seat. 

When can a child travel without a car seat

When there is no room

If there is no room on the back seat of a car for a third child’s car seat, a child of three or over can sit in the middle using an adult seatbelt. For children under three, they can use the front seat, but they must be in an appropriate car seat. 

The importance of car seats

When can a child travel without a car seat? Well, in any of the above situations. But none are ideal. Although the law does allow children to travel without car seats in some circumstances, you should always explore all other options before resorting to these measures. Child car seats are designed to provide the ultimate in safety for your kids when they are in a motor vehicle and travelling with no belt or a seatbelt designed for an adult is, frankly, dangerous.

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