Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Car seats and child safety in cars

You have to put your child in a properly fitted car seat or booster seat when travelling.

A booster seat raises your child up high enough so that the seatbelt is positioned correctly on their body.

Your child is much less likely to be killed or injured in a crash if they are in a car seat or booster seat.

The safest way for children to travel is in a car seat in the back seat of the car.

How to keep children safe in cars -


It is illegal and dangerous to hold a child in your lap when travelling.

Children in cars and the law

By law, a child must use the correct child seat or booster seat for their height and weight when travelling in a car, van, truck if they:

  • are under 150cm in height, or
  • weigh less than 36kg (79lbs)

This usually means your child will need to be in a car seat until they are around 12 years old. But it depends on their height and weight. 

Taxis are not included in this law.

It's also illegal and dangerous to put a rearward-facing child seat in a front passenger seat that has an active air-bag. This can cause serious injury or even death if there is a collision.

There is no law against children sitting in the front seat, as long as they are using the right child restraint for their height and weight.

Picking the right car seat

There are many different types of seat available.

When choosing a car seat make sure that the seat:

  • is correct for your child’s weight and height
  • has an 'E-Mark' label to show it meets EU safety standards

For babies, rearward-facing seats provide more protection for their head, neck and spine than forward-facing seats. It's best to keep your baby in a rearward-facing seat for as long as possible.

What type of child seat you need -

Second-hand car seats

It is best to buy a new car seat. You should not use a second-hand car seat unless you are sure of its safety history.

There are risks you should be aware of if you decide to use a second-hand car seat.

Before deciding to use a second-hand car seat, check that it:

  • is less than 5 years old
  • has not been involved in a crash — a car seat that was involved in a crash may be damaged, but the damage may not be visible
  • is not damaged
  • is not missing parts
  • has the correct 'E-Mark' label that shows it meets EU safety standards
  • comes with the manual that shows how to fit it and how it works

Fitting car seats correctly

Always make sure a seat is fitted correctly. If your child's car seat is not fitted correctly, it could lead to serious injury or death if you are involved in a crash. 

Ask an expert to fit the car seat for you. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has a free service that can help.

The ‘Check it Fits’ service is open to all makes and models of cars and child car seats. A list of upcoming 'Check it Fits' event locations and dates are listed on the RSA website. You can also book an online appointment.

'Check it Fits' service -

The RSA say that 4 out of 5 child car seats are not fitted correctly. So it is important to get an expert's advice.

Strap your child into their car seat correctly

Always strap your child in their car seat securely, no matter how short the journey.

The RSA advice is to:

  • take time to get your child comfortably strapped in on every journey
  • make sure the seat's harness or the seat belt is adjusted correctly
  • use blankets instead of bulky jackets in winter to make sure the harness is in contact with the child's body
  • never tuck the seatbelt under the child’s arm or behind their back

Make sure the harness or seat belt is tight enough

For rearward-facing seats:

  • it should be tight enough so that only 2 fingers can fit between the top of the child’s shoulders and the harness
  • you should not be able to turn your fingers in that position
  • never tuck the seatbelt under the child’s arm or behind their back

For forward-facing seats:

  • it should be tight enough so that only two fingers can fit between the child's breastbone and the harness
  • you should not be able to rotate or turn your fingers in that position

Do not use head support straps

Do not place straps across your child’s forehead in the car seat.

Head strap products are sometimes described as a car seat head safety strap, a neck protection belt or a holder belt.

These head support products claim to be safe. They claim to prevent your child’s head falling forwards or sideways if they fall asleep.

There is no evidence that these products are safe to use.

These products are also marketed for use in buggies or strollers. Do not use them.

Risks of using head support straps

Possible risks of using head support straps include:

  • injury to your child’s spine or neck in an accident
  • suffocation if the strap slips down over their nose and mouth
  • strangulation if the strap moves down over their neck

The strap could also slip down over your child’s eyes or prevent them from moving their head. This could cause distress.

Car seats are designed to keep your child as safe as possible while travelling. Do not use additional products.

Keeping your child safe while driving

Travelling in taxis

Taxi drivers do not have to supply child car seats. They are exempt by law. But some taxi companies do provide car seats if you ask for them. Check with the taxi company or use one that can provide you with a car seat.

Otherwise, bringing your own car seat and fitting it correctly will keep your child safe when travelling in a taxi.

A child under 3 years can be carried in the back seat of a taxi, if no car seat is available. But it is safer to use a car seat if you can.

Page last reviewed: 20 October 2023
Next review due: 20 October 2026

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.