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Road Users

Child safety in cars

The law and guidance on keeping children safe in cars.

Children are one of the most vulnerable people in our society, and no parent or guardian would knowingly put a child’s life in danger.  However, an astonishing number of parents allow their children to travel in vehicles without being properly restrained, placing their lives and safety at risk. Woman placing face covering on child in carA total of 98 children (aged 0-14 years) lost their lives on our roads between 2007 and 2017. Children were most at risk of being killed on the road in March, July and August and between 12pm-8pm with Saturday being the high-risk day of the week. 573 children were seriously injured during the same period .

The law 

By law, under legislation S.I. No. 240/2006 - Safety Belts and Child Restraint Systems in Motor Vehicles, all children under 150 cms in height or 36 kgs (79 lbs) in weight must use a child restraint system (CRS) suitable for their height and weight while travelling in a car or goods vehicle (other than a taxi). An example of a CRS would be a child car seat or booster cushion.

Remember, it is illegal to place a rearward-facing child car seat in the front of the car where there is an active airbag. An airbag which deploys (opens up) in front of a rearward-facing child car seat 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.

Safety standards

All child car seats sold in Ireland must meet EU standards UN ECE Regulation 4403/04 or Regulation 129.

From the 1st September 2023, R129 will replace R44 entirely as the only approved EU car seat testing standard.

UN Regulation No 129 pdf | 715 KB When buying a child car seat, you should always look for the ‘E’ mark. 

ISOFix and i-Size

ISOFIX is the international standard of built-in attachment points in a car’s structure to fit a child car seat. A child car seat can easily be plugged into the ISOFIX system,  greatly reducing the risk of fitting the seat incorrectly. Many new vehicles have ISOFIX points built in when they are manufactured
i-Size seats can be fitted to most ISOFIX systems and they provide increased support for the child’s head and neck and better side-impact protection in the event of collisions. An i-Size seat also allows your child to stay rear-facing for much longer

Problem behaviours

Some children go through a phase of constantly slipping out of the child seat harness or safety belt, or incorrectly adjusting straps or seatbelts, or releasing the buckle during journeys.

You should check that: 

  • the harness or seat belt is adjusted correctly to your child, in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines 
  • your child is comfortable

Incorrectly adjusted harness straps may cause your child to be uncomfortable leading them to push straps off or open buckles.  

Dangers of leaving children unattended in cars 

Infants or young children should never be left unattended in a motor vehicle. A variety of hazards can arise, even if you are only away for a short while, including:

  • an outbreak of fire
  • breathing problems on warm days
  • accidental trapping of children in electronically operated windows
  • leaving your car keys in your car when you are not in it.

Premature and low birth-weight babies

If you have a premature or low birth-weight baby, ask the hospital to assess if it is safe for the baby to travel in a baby seat before you are discharged. If you are in any doubt at all about your child travelling in the car, consult the hospital or your GP for further advice.

Download our Child Safety in Cars Booklet pdf | 3607 KB
Child seats

Child car seats advice from the RSA. Child car seat types. Choosing a child car seat. Fitting a child car seat. Check it Fits expert service. Code of practice.

Driveway safety

We can't expect children to take responsibility for their own safety so it's up to us to take the necessary steps to protect them. The videos below offer step-by-step guidance on the different checks and routines you can carry out when travelling with children or in areas where children may be exposed to danger such as driveways, housing estates and near schools.