Parents have been urged to pay close attention to how they fit their child’s car seat or risk a big fine and potentially injuring their baby.
Experts advise that it’s safer to carry your children in the rear seats of the car but there are times when this isn’t possible and you need to fit a rear-facing child seat in the front.
If you do this, however, you must make sure to deactivate the passenger airbag. Failing to do so risks causing serious injury or death to your child if you’re involved in a collision.
Rule 101 of the Highway Code states: “A rear-facing baby seat MUST NOT be fitted into a seat protected by an active frontal airbag, as in a crash it can cause serious injury or death to the child.”
Failure to follow the rule leaves drivers open to a fine of up to £500.
Passenger airbags are a common feature in most relatively modern car and are designed to protect adult passengers in the event of a collision. However, the explosive force of the bag deploying is enough to cause serious head and neck injuries to youngsters in rear-facing seats.
How to deactivate passenger airbag
Deactivating the passenger airbag so you can fit a rear-facing child seat varies between vehicles but is usually pretty straightforward.
Most cars have a simple switch operated by a key. It is usually located in the glovebox, on the lower section of the dashboard or between the side of the dashboard and the door (you’ll need to open the door fully to access it).
Using a key, turn the switch from the “on” to “off” position. A light somewhere on the dashboard should indicate that the airbag is not longer active.
Not all cars have the option to deactivate the airbag, if this is the case you must not fit a rear-facing child seat.
If you’re in any doubt, consult your owner’s manual.
Remember to switch the airbag back on once you’ve removed the child seat.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “It is crucial that drivers understand the effect an airbag can have on a rear-facing child seat if you fit it on the front passenger seat.
“In a crash the airbag will deploy into contact with the seat and can eject a baby backwards or cause serious spinal or neck injuries.
“IAM RoadSmart advice is to always a baby seat in the back but if you must use the front seats then deactivation is a must.
“Normally it takes little more than a key turn in the glove box or by the door frame.
“A moment’s extra care will not only help you avoid a potential fine but much more importantly keep your baby as safe and protected as possible.”