Updated: Dec 30, 2020
The rules on when to use seat belts and child seats in taxis and minicabs can be confusing, especially when it comes to travelling with children of different ages in a cab.
According to the DfT in most cases, children under 3 must always be in a child car seat. The rules are however different if:
the child is in a taxi or minicab
the child is in a minibus, coach or van
the child is on an unexpected journey, for example an emergency
there’s no room for another car seat.
In taxis and minicabs, if the driver doesn’t provide the correct child car seat, children can travel without one - but only if they travel on a rear seat:
and wear an adult seat belt if they’re 3 or older
without a seat belt if they’re under 3.
If the correct child car seat isn’t available and an unexpected journey needs to be made, a child aged 3 or older can use an adult seat belt if the journey is all of the following:
over a short distance.
However, you can’t take children under 3 on an unexpected journey in a vehicle without the correct child car seat, unless both of the following apply:
it’s a licensed taxi or minicab
the child travels on a rear seat without a seat belt.
According to Stephen McCaffrey, a regulatory defence barrister who specialises in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence, seat belt laws differ for all the riders in a taxi compared to privately owned vehicles.
The rules for a taxi or minicab driver means they are exempt from wearing seatbelts under the following circumstances (reg. 6 The Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations 1993):
a licensed taxi while it is being used for seeking hire, or answering a call for hire, or carrying a passenger for hire, or
a private hire vehicle while it is being used to carry a passenger for hire.
Most importantly this exemption does NOT apply to passengers who are required to wear seatbelts. Any person over the age of 14 MUST wear a seat belt to avoid committing a criminal offence.