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What are the legal requirements for driving with a child in the car?

Question:

What are the legal requirements for driving with a child in the car?

Answer:

The National Road Traffic Act does not have a specific regulation in respect of children sitting in the front seat.

A baby should be in an approved and preferably rear-facing child seat.  Older children (15-25kgs) should be secured in a booster seat with a seatbelt on, preferably in the rear of the vehicle.

We at the AA recommend that a child is always properly restrained with a car seat or booster seat until the child can safely be secured by the seatbelt.

However, the regulation deals with seatbelts in respect of age categories.  Road users are broken down into the following categories: 

  1. Children are defined as being between the age of 3 to 14 except where the person is taller than 1.5 metres
  2. And adult is defined as being 14 and over or taller than 1.5 metres tall. 

The Act requires that an adult must at all times make use of a seatbelt. The only exception under these circumstances where an adult may be exempted from using a seatbelt is where there are no seats with fitted seatbelts available. (This refers to older vehicles that weren’t manufactured with rear seatbelts).

It is the obligation of the motorist to ensure that where there is a child restraint available (car seat / booster seat), a child must be securely seated in it.  The Act further requires that where there is no child restraint available in the vehicle then the child must be secured in a seatbelt. In other words, in the case of an older vehicle with no seatbelts at the back the child must be restrained in a seatbelt at the front.

The Act is silent as to theminimum weight for a child to sit in the front seat of a car.

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