Using seat belts and child restraints
Seat belts are your best protection in accidents and it is especially important that any child in your vehicle be protected by the safety restraint appropriate to their size and weight. By law, you may not carry a child under 17 in a car or goods vehicle (other than a taxi) without an appropriate restraint system (see table below).
Although many people speak about safety restraints in terms of age, the most important factor in determining the correct restraint is weight. The recommended safety restraints for your vehicle’s occupants are:
|Type of Restraint
|Rearward-facing baby seat
||Up to max 13kgs (29lbs)
||Birth to 12-15 months|
|Forward-facing child seat
||9 months - 4 years|
||4 - 6 years|
||6 - 12 years|
||36kgs and over
||12 years and up|
Rearward-facing baby seats are best placed in the back seat of your vehicle and should never be used in a front passenger seat that has an airbag.
When riding a bus, children over three years of age must wear a seat belt or use an appropriate child restraint system if the vehicle is fitted with seat belts.
You can learn more about selecting and fitting safety restraints in our Child safety in cars guide(PDF)
Roadworthiness and seat belt maintenance
It’s important to keep up the maintenance of your vehicle’s seat belts both in order to fulfil roadworthiness requirements for vehicle testing and for occupants’ safety. You should routinely inspect all seat belts in your vehicle, checking that:
- they are not cut or badly frayed
- they operate correctly—when pulled out fully, they should retract automatically
- the buckles work properly
If a belt is damaged in any way or does not operate correctly, you should replace or repair it without delay at your local garage or an authorised dealer. Check to see if your seat belt has an ‘e’ or ‘E’ mark, meaning it meets with the EU regulations. If no markings can be found, your vehicle manufacturer or local authorised dealer should be able to tell you if your seat belts are compliant. For retro-fitting of belts, you should contact an authorised dealer for your particular make of vehicle.
Important dates for roadworthiness
If your car, light goods vehicle or minibus has been registered since 1 June 1971, it must have seat belts for both driver and front passenger to pass its roadworthiness test. If your car has been registered since 1 January 1992, all seats must have seat belts.
Buses and heavy goods vehicles registered since 20th October 2007 must also have seat belts, and there are new seat belt rules for buses and minibuses.
- Since 29 October 2010, bus owners are required to present documentation at their roadworthiness test certifying that the seat belts, where fitted to their vehicle, meet a minimum standard.
- Since October 2011, all buses involved in the organised transport of children are required to be fitted with certified seat belt installations.
Wearing seat belts—The Law
The most recent laws on the use of seat belts and child restraints in Ireland are the EC Compulsory Use of Safety Belts and Child Restraint Systems in Motor Vehicles Regulations 2006 (SI No. 240 of 2006)
For cars & goods vehicles
Essentially, the latest regulations say that, in a car or goods vehicle, where seat belts are fitted they must be worn and children must be protected by a child restraint appropriate for their size and weight.
The regulations place responsibility on the driver to ensure that passengers under the age of 17 comply with the requirement to wear a seat belt or child restraint. Drivers who themselves fail to comply with front seat belt requirements, or front and rear seat belt requirements for passengers under 17, may receive 2 penalty points and a fine of up to €2,000.
The latest regulations also say that bus drivers and bus passengers aged 3 and above must wear seat belts where they have been provided.
A person aged 14 and above is responsible for wearing their seat belt on a bus and drivers may refuse to carry a passenger who fails to wear a seat belt. The penalty for failure to comply is a fine of up to €2,000.
Bus owners are required to ensure that passengers are informed of the requirement to wear seat belts while they are seated and while the vehicle is in motion, through either an announcement, presentation, appropriate signage, etc. The penalty for failure to comply is a fine of up to €5,000; however, the vehicle owner does not commit an offence if it’s shown that he/she was unable to inform passengers of the requirement because of damage caused by vehicle users to video equipment or signage, etc., and where rectification of the damage was not practical in the circumstances.