Car safety – Car seats and smoking in cars

Can you imagine life without your car? For many people, especially those with children, the idea of being off the road is unthinkable.

Our cars have become one of the most important parts of our lives, and many people view them as a highly personal space, almost an extension of the home.

However, since the rise in popularity of motor vehicles following the war, the law has taken an increasing interest in what goes on inside. Seat belts, car seats and mobile phone use are just three examples but from October 2015, smoking was added to the list.

Here’s a look at smoking and car safety and why it really matters.


The new law

smoking next to child

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New legislation prevents passive smoking in cars for under 18 year olds

The new legislation which came into force in October 2015 explicitly states that it’s now illegal to smoke inside a vehicle where there are passengers aged under 18 years of age.

Effective from 1 October 2015, any individual failing to observe the new law could see themselves slapped with a £50 fine. The police have said they will be enforcing this new legislation vigorously, although certainly for a while have said they will attempt to “educate” rather than just issue fines.

This may be a vital step in stamping out smoking in cars because most parents would be horrified to know the potential damage they could be doing to their child’s lungs. Having a window open or blowing smoke out of the window does not prevent the harmful effects, a fact which many smokers aren’t aware of.

Cot death, meningitis and childhood asthma are just some of the risks of passive smoking. In cars, to levels stand at around 100 times the agreed safety concentration. This is with the windows down…with the windows up, the degree of toxicity within the car rockets even higher.

Around 300,000 children need medical treatment every year because of an illness which can be attributed to passive smoking.

What may have seemed like a quick and harmless smoke on the school run suddenly takes on a whole new complexion when faced with the chilling figures.


child in car seat

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Car seats

Make sure your child is safely tucked away in their car seat

The new laws around smoking in the car with children is quite simple – don’t do it! The rules about car seats are rather more complex, and potentially carries an even heftier fine.

Not using the right car seat for your child carries a fine of up to £500 – ouch. Here’s what you need to know:

  • All children who are 135cm or smaller, or aged below 12 years, must have the appropriate child seat
  • The driver is responsible for making sure the children have the right means of travel, regardless of whether they are the parent
  • The rules for taxis are a bit different; child seats are not compulsory but over 3’s must wear an adult seat belt. Under 3’s must be on the back seat
  • If your car cannot fit in a third child seat, a child aged 3 or over may travel using the seat belt fitted
  • Under 3’s are not permitted to travel in cars where seat belts are not required (such as some classic cars)

If there is an unforeseen emergency, the law allows some wiggle room but this very much depends on the interpretation of the law enforcement officer who is present, so this exception should not be used other than in the most extreme circumstances.

Although it’s not a legal requirement, keeping your children facing the rear is recommended for as long as possible. Research has shown this is the safest way for them to travel within a car.



Driving children in your car means accepting certain restrictions and limitations, and failure to comply with these could end up with you forced to pay a sizeable fine. Make sure you have the correct child seats fitted, and keep the cigarette packets well away from the car, and you’ll be on the right side of the law.

Written by Carly Garrett

Image Credits: British Lung Foundation and Rental Car Reviews