Churchill magazine

Safety advice for car passengers

Updated on: 14 September 2020

A passenger in the back of a car puts on a seat belt.

A passenger in a car puts a huge amount of trust in the driver to keep them safe, but that doesn’t mean their safety is entirely out of their hands.

Exactly who’s responsible for passenger safety depends on their age, so read on to find out how to make sure everyone in the car is as safe as possible.

General passenger safety advice

If the car has seat belts, there must be a belt for each passenger in the car. A seat belt can’t be shared by two or more people.

You can only travel without wearing a belt if the car was manufactured without them – such as a classic car. In these cars, only children aged 3 or older are allowed to travel, and they must be in the back seats.

Anyone aged 14 or older is legally responsible for their own seat belt.

Keeping children safe in a car

It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure that all children under the age of 14 are safely restrained in the car. You could be fined if a child isn’t in the correct car seat or wearing a seat belt while you’re driving.

UK law states:

You must make sure that any children in the vehicle you’re driving are:

  • In the correct car seat for their height or weight until they reach 135cm or their 12th birthday, whichever is first.
  • Wearing a seat belt if they’re 12 or 13 years old, or younger and over 135cm tall.

You should also check your car’s handbook for information on how to disable air bags which aren’t safe for use in seats occupied by children.

How to be a better passenger

Nothing brings on an argument faster than a bit of back-seat driving. Criticising the driver can cause them to get stressed or angry behind the wheel, which could lead to distraction and an accident. Try to keep comments to yourself.

Instead, think of ways you can help. Whether that’s entertaining the kids, changing the radio or noticing the driver’s tired and offering to take over during a long road trip (only if you’re insured to do so).

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