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Driving with kids: road trips with children and driving laws

Getting on the road with children in the car can be hard work – here's all you need to know to make it simpler

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Whether you’re a parent and drive with kids in the car daily or are babysitting and need to drive somewhere, travelling with children in your vehicle can seem daunting.

Keeping children safe and secure in their seat is a major concern, but considering how to keep children entertained and comfortable for long journeys can be just as important.

These are our top tips for driving with kids in the car, the laws when it comes to keeping them safe, extra accessories that could help you out, and the best cars for travelling with children.

Child safety in the car

Child safety is probably at the top of your list of concerns when it comes to driving with kids.

You can check the Euro NCAP rating of your vehicle or one you’re considering to buy to make sure it has all the safety features you need, and you might also want to invest in some extra safety kit like seatbelt adjusters, reflective vests, or a top-of-the-range child seat.

You might also want to add a ‘child on board’ sign to your car in case emergency services need to know who’s in the vehicle in the event of an accident, and there are extra safety accessories that can be added to seatbelts to make them extra secure.

When it comes to car safety with kids, it’s always best to get them involved from the get-go.

Chat with them about how to remain safe while you're driving, and it will become part of their routine.

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What’s the law on driving with kids?

Child car seats – the law

According to UK child seat laws, children must travel using a child car seat until they are 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall.

Height-based seats must be rear-facing until your child is 15 months and above, and then you can switch to a forward facing seat.

It’s always important to check your child's measurements for height- or weight-based seats to ensure they’re as safe as possible.

Remember: never strap a child into a car seat with a blanket or large coat underneath the belt. In a collision, these fabrics will compact and cause the seatbelt to be loose, making it unsafe for the child.

What age can a child sit in the front seat in the UK?

There are no current laws that say a child cannot sit in the front seat of a car at any age, but they should be using an appropriate child seat until they are no longer required to.  

If you have a rear-facing car seat in the front, the law does require you to deactivate the passenger seat airbag.

If this isn’t possible, the seat should be pushed as far back as possible.  

The safest place to put a child seat is in the back of a vehicle, and you can use a handy backseat mirror to keep an eye on them.

Car accessories to make it easier to drive with kids

There are a few things you can add to your car to make it easier when driving with children.

Essentials like car seats and booster seats are a given, but there are other accessories you can add to your car interior for extra peace of mind.

  • Backseat mirrors: these handy mirrors allow you a view of what’s going on in the backseat, so you can easily take a quick look without taking your focus off the road.

  • Window sunshade: popping a sunshade up at the side windows of your vehicle will mean your passengers can have a squint-free journey, making sure they’re comfortable and cool in hot weather.

  • Travel tray or backseat organiser: if you’re travelling long distances and need to keep your children occupied, a travel tray or backseat organiser is a great way to give them options for entertainment. You can get collapsible travel trays that are easy to store and ones that have side pockets for toys and activities, while a backseat organiser will be easily accessible at all times.

  • Car seat cushions: if you’re heading on a long journey, there are car seat cushions and supports you can buy to keep your child comfortable. Make sure these don’t impair the safety of the car seat, and opt for a neck pillow or something else like a cosy blanket (over the top of the seatbelt) if these are safer options.

  • Car toys: there are some brilliant car toys on the market that are ideal for in-car entertainment, including some that cushion and protect the back of your seats while allowing for fun kicking. We particularly like the ones that include a mini steering wheel – starting them off early!

Long drives with kids

Driving with children can be stressful at the best of times, but long road trips can be a real struggle. By planning ahead and getting some essentials together, you can save a lot of stress in the future.

  • In-car entertainment: you can use our suggestions above to kit out your car for an entertaining trip, or put together your own collection of toys and activities to keep your mini passengers occupied. Things like books, sensory toys, and maybe even some screentime are good options.

  • Spares and extras: if you’re a parent then you’ll probably know that extras and spares of everything are a necessity when travelling with a child, so consider adding an emergency bag in the car with clothes and other essentials in case you need them. This will prevent you from having to dig through bags in the boot in a rush.

  • Snacks: it’s not a road trip without a good supply of snacks, so it goes without saying you should stock up on non-messy favourites before you head off.

Choosing the right car

Picking the perfect car for your family is probably the most important part of making driving with kids a stress-free experience.

Check out our range of used cars and find the one that's right for you and your little ones.

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