New rules are being introduced limiting the use of backless booster seats for older children.
UK law states that all children must use the correct car seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm (1.35m) tall.
This compares to some other countries like France and Germany where the height limit is 150cm.
Under the new rules backless booster seats – also known as booster cushions – will only be approved for use for children taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg (3st 6.5lbs).
At the moment children weighing as little as 15kg (2st 4lbs) – that’s around three years old – can travel in backless booster seats.
But many child car seat experts agree that this type of booster seat is unsuitable for such young children.
Gary Watts, who owns family-run business W H Watt & Co, feels so strongly about backless booster seats he doesn’t even stock them in his shop.
“I’ve not sold booster seats for ten years,” he said.
“All decent manufacturers don’t use booster seats. All a booster seat does is put the lap belt in the correct place, it offers no protection. It’s pretty much the same as putting a cushion in the car.
“We stopped selling booster seats prior to the 2006 legislation change.
“A lot of children were not in any kind of seat so at the time it was better for them to have a booster seat but it’s something we would never advise anyone to buy.
“High-backed seats protect the head in a crash; on a booster seat the child’s head won’t stop until it hits the side of the car.
“They’re miles safer. The shoulder protection keeps them in the right position.”
He advises that children progress from a 9-18kg group one seat with a harness into a high-backed booster seat until they are 150cm, which is equivalent to about age 11-12.
“Isofix ones – which fix the seat to the vehicle – are more expensive but you can buy one that will last from age four to 11 for about £80,” he said.
“But when you weigh it up, it’s a no-brainer.”
How do I choose a car seat – 7 top tips
Watts’ top tips on what to look for when choosing a car seat for your child:
1. High back;
2. Head protection;
3. Shoulder protection;
4. Red guides to feed seat belt through;
5. Isofix fitting (this stops the seat “swaying”, fixing the seat to the vehicle);
6. Don’t be distracted by character design/colour;
7. Avoid buying online, visit a retailer where expert advice can be given.
What is the new law?
UK law states that children must use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm (4ft 5in) tall, whichever comes first.
But safety experts recommend you use a child car seat for all children under 150cm (4ft 11in).
For children weighing more than 36kg (5st 10lb) but under 150cm (4ft 11in) it is advised to go by height.
Remember it is the driver’s responsibility for children being in car seats while travelling.
When does the law change?
The law on booster seats for children is due to change soon.
Under the new regulations, which could come into force in March, only children measuring more than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg will be able to travel in a car on a backless booster cushion.
This is because a backless car seat offers much less protection in the event of a collision.
Children must be in an appropriate child car seat until they are either 135cm in height or 12 years old.
After this they must then use an adult seatbelt, according to the new rules.
Can I still use my booster seat?
Under the new rules, backless booster seats will only be approved for use for children taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg.
Booster seats are not recommended by experts including Which? or W H Watts & Son because they don’t offer protection in crashes.