The law on backless booster car seats (booster cushions) can be confusing. The current law (which changed in 2017) stopped manufacturers creating new models of booster cushions for children shorter than 125cm tall or weighing less than 22kg.
Now, when a company designs or invents a new backless booster seat, it will have to be for children over 125cm tall (4ft1) or heavier than 22kg (3 stone 6.5 pounds) – which ever comes first.
But it’s important to note that this rule only applies to brand new products entering the car seat market. It does not affect any booster seats that you may currently be using – or even ones (approved under the older law) stocked in shops.
Does that mean backless booster seats will be illegal?
No, it just means that new models of backless booster seats will only be suitable for children taller than 125cm or weighing more than 22kg. The Department of Transport Government website confirms that the new rules don’t affect current models of backless boosters and booster seats.
Will I be fined for using a backless booster seat?
No. If you have a backless booster seat that you owned before the law changed, it is still legal.
The only time you may be fined is not in a car seat and still legally need to sit in one, or if your child is not the correct weight or height for they have – so for example they are 14kg and using any type of booster seat, which has a minimum weight of 15kg stated on it.
It’s also worth noting that if you were ever pulled over by the police to inspect you car and child restraint system (child car seat), it’s likely to be in a place where you can buy a new car seat if needed; i.e an Argos car park.
So if you had to, or were told that the current car seat you use doesn’t meet legal requirements, you could pop to the nearest shop and buy one.
Police rarely fine a parent for using the incorrect car seat, as they are there to inspect and help parents travel the safest way with their children.
How old will my child need to be to use this new type of backless booster?
There’s no exact age – suitability is measured by height or weight of your child. But to give you an idea of age, 125cm tall or 22kg in weight is approximately the size of a 7-year-old child – although of course children vary enormously, so it’s only a rough guideline.
Can I still use my backless booster seat even though my child is smaller than these new regulations?
Yes you can. Previously, booster cushions were sold as being suitable for children over 15kg (2 stone 5 pounds), which can happen between 3 to 4 years old. If you have one of these already and it complies with current regulations (ECE R4/04 law), you can still use it legally, even if your child isn’t yet 125cm or 22kg.
However, the new regulation is designed to increase safety: your child will be safer in a high-backed booster seat compared with a backless booster. Therefore, the safest option is for your child to sit in a high-backed booster seat for as long as possible, and certainly until they reach 22kg.
Car seat safety experts Child Seat Safety always recommend parents use of a car seat while travelling in the car: “Regardless of whether you have a seat that complies to the new regulations or not, we would always recommend that you keep your child on a high backed booster seat and don’t remove the back section. These seats will provide your child with the upper body, neck and head protection that they definitely need in a collision.”
So how will this new booster seat law affect me?
If you’re purchasing a new booster cushion you may be asked to confirm your child’s weight and height, so best to measure your child before going to the store. New products will also be labelled with weight and height restrictions.
Pic: Backless booster (booster cushion) vs high-backed booster
But if this is based on safety, should I stop using my backless booster?
The evidence shows high-backed Group 2/3 (booster) car seats offer a higher level of protection compared to backless boosters (booster cushions).
At MadeForMums, we would therefore recommend using high-backed car seats up to the height of 135cm or until children are over 12 years old.
However, we also believe that parents have the right to choose which products to use, as long as they are safe. Backless booster seats are still certified to be safe, legal and available to buy (for children over a certain weight and height), as long as they conform to the current law.
But remember, if your child does have a backless booster, it’s crucial that you make sure both the seat and seat belt are properly fitted each time you drive.
Are booster seats going to be being banned?
No. The aim of the new regulations is to start a behaviour change – to encourage parents who want to use backless boosters, to only do so for their older children.
The changes will happen slowly as new models come on to the market and parents decide to follow the new guidelines when they buy a booster seat. The new regulation follows evidence that high-backed boosters offer more protection for children aged between around 4 and 7 than backless ones.
Will you be driving with 3 (or more) kids? We’ve found the best narrow car seats that fit 3 in the back of most cars.
Why aren’t child booster cushions simply banned altogether?
The BPA (Baby Products Association) and car seat makers who help develop the laws have confirmed there are no plans to completely ban backless booster seats.
The reason the law makers say they won’t ban booster cushions is because some parents need them, particularly if they have small cars or travel in taxis and they believe that it’s better for parents to have a backless booster than no child seat at all.
Backless boosters are the simplest and cheapest car seats. They’re basically bottom seats that raise the height of your child. This helps the seat belt give better protection in the event of a crash, but there’s no side or head protection.