Children up to 135cm tall (around 4'5"), or the age of 12, whichever comes first, in the front or rear seats in cars, vans and other goods vehicles must travel in the correct child restraint for their weight with very few exceptions.
In a crash at just 30 mph, an unrestrained child would be thrown forward with a force 30 to 60 times their body weight. They would be thrown about inside the vehicle, injuring themselves and quite possibly seriously injuring (or even killing) other people inside the vehicle. They are also likely to be ejected from the car through one of the windows.
It is not safe to hold a child on your lap. In a crash, the child could be crushed between your body and part of the car's interior. Even if you are using a seat belt, the child would be torn from your arms - you would not be able to hold onto them, no matter how hard you try.
It is also dangerous to put a seat belt around yourself and a child (or around two children). The safest way for children to travel in cars is in a child seat that is suitable for their weight and size.
New booster seat rules
Stricter rules regarding the use of booster seats will come into force later this year limiting the use of backless booster seats to older children. For more details visit the Which? Opens in a new window website.