Carrying passengers and loads

If you’re carrying passengers, you’ll need to check that they’re safe before you start your journey. As the driver, you’re responsible for everyone in your car.

Seat belts and restraints

If your car has seat belts, you and your passengers must use them. Exactly what sort of restraint they should use depends on their age and size.

  • Adults and children aged 12 and over, or at least 1.35 metres tall (approx 4 ft 5 in), should use the ordinary seat belt on their seat.
  • Children aged 3 to 12 years, or up to 1.35 metres tall, must use a suitable child restraint such as a booster seat.
  • Children under 3 years must use a suitable child seat – either forward facing or rear facing.
  • Very young babies (up to 13 kg) must use a rear-facing child seat.

Never fit a rear-facing child seat in a seat that has an active airbag. You must deactivate the airbag before fitting the seat.

Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions when fitting a child seat or restraint – if you’re not sure, ask a specialist for help.

Adults must not put one seat belt around themselves and a child on their lap: this could cause serious injury in the event of a crash.

Head restraints

Modern cars are fitted with head restraints (sometimes referred to as headrests) to help prevent neck injuries in a crash. You’ll need to adjust the head restraint so it’s the right height for you: the widest part of the restraint should be in line with the top of your ears.

Carrying loads

You must make sure you do not overload your vehicle. Check your car’s handbook to see how much weight it can carry and how to load it safely.

If you’re carrying a load, make sure it’s

  • fastened securely
  • not blocking your view
  • not sticking out dangerously.

Think about whether you need special equipment to carry loads safely and securely, such as a roof box, cycle rack or straps to anchor items. You can get advice on how to fit and use this equipment from specialist shops.

Try to distribute the weight of the load evenly around the car to help keep the vehicle stable. If you’re carrying or towing a heavy load, you might need to make some adjustments to your vehicle such as

  • increasing the air pressure in the tyres
  • adjusting the aim of the headlights.

Carrying extra weight will make it take longer for the car to accelerate and brake. It’ll also affect how the vehicle steers, so you’ll need to go around corners more slowly than usual.

Animals must be restrained so they cannot block your view or cause a distraction. Dogs can travel in a special cage or behind a dog guard; you can also use a harness for extra security. Other animals should be carried in a cage or pet carrier, secured with a seat belt if possible.

Passenger distractions

Passengers in your car can be very distracting, whether you’re driving your friends to the pub or taking your children on a trip. Whatever their age, passengers are not always aware of how their behaviour can distract you from driving and how dangerous this could be.

It’s your responsibility to keep your passengers safe so make sure that they do not distract you. This could involve

  • asking your passengers to be quiet or to turn down music
  • making sure you do not drive irresponsibly because of something a passenger has said or done
  • stopping the car so that you can sort out any problems before you carry on with your journey.

Never allow your passengers to put pressure on you to drive dangerously or show off.

Back to top