Passenger and in-car safety

Car occupants form the majority of all road casualties. Each year in the UK more than 200,000 car occupants are killed and injured as passengers.

Seat belts are designed to reduce the severity of injuries suffered by car occupants in road accidents. They are designed to hold occupants in their seats, preventing them from being thrown about inside the vehicle or from being ejected through the windows.

When worn, seat belts are a very effective safety measure. The Department for Transport has estimated that front seat belts have saved thousands of lives and tens of thousands of serious injuries since their use became compulsory in 1983. They also estimate that rear seat belts have saved hundreds of lives and thousands of serious injuries since they became compulsory in 1991. To view a summary of the law and the fitting of child car seats and seat belts please see

Essential tips for carrying children in cars

Make sure that your child seat conforms to the European Standard ECE R44.03. Look for a seat that is tested to British or European Standards and bears an E mark (United Nations), British Standards Kitemark or European E mark. Never carry an unrestrained child in your car. Don’t use a second-hand child car seat unless you know its history and suitability.

Use the manufacturer’s instructions to fit the child seat. Your child seat may not be suitable for friends or family cars. When fastening the buckle, never place any stress on it by bending it over – it will break.

Behaviour in the car

The law says that seatbelts must be worn at all times. Keep children under control and ensure they use proper restraints. Never let them distract the driver or block the view of the rear view mirror. Don’t let them play with door handles, windows or seatbelt buckles. Never let any passenger lean out of a window or stand up through a sunroof.

It is against the law to carry a child in the lap of a front seat passenger, even if that passenger is wearing a seatbelt. In a collision you would not be able to hold onto the child and it would be propelled through the windscreen.

If you carry a dog in a car keep it under control and preferably in the back of an estate or on the back seat. Never place a dog in the lap of a driver. If startled the dog could cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Remember, it is safer to get children and passengers out of a car on the pavement side, but check for pedestrians before you open the door.

To receive copies of a wide-range on in-car safety literature, please contact the Road Safety Centre.

Related links

  • Child Accident Prevention Trust
    Child Accident Prevention Trust is a national charity committed to reducing the number of children and young people who are killed, disabled or seriously injured as a result of accidents.
  • Child Car Seats
    The safest way for children to travel in cars is in a child seat that is suitable for their weight and size.
  • RoSPA
    Road safety resources for teachers and parents together with information for older children. Also a very useful download facility for drivers. Click Road Safety on their webpage to access information.
  • The Highway Code
    Use the A-Z Keyword index to search for your topic.
  • Think! Primary School Teaching Resources
    This site provides you with lesson plans and worksheets for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. These have all been written by educational professionals.