Buses that are designed for urban use with standing passengers are not required to have seat belts.
Other types of buses that were made after 1 October 2001 must be fitted with three point seat belts or retractable lap belt in all forward and rearward facing seats.
There are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of being hurt while using a bus:
- Don't try to get on or off a bus until it has come to a complete standstill, and find a seat as quickly as possible. Be aware that the driver may start moving before you have sat down.
- Make sure that your child stays seated throughout the journey. If possible, let him or her sit by the window while you take the aisle seat. Ensure that your bags or luggage do not obstruct the aisle or exits.
- Be particularly careful when getting off the bus. When you want to get off, press the stop button to alert the driver, but try not to stand up until the bus has stopped. Make sure the bus has completely stopped before stepping off. Double check that no part of your child's clothing is caught in the bus doors.
- Hold your child's hand on the pavement to make sure they do not dash out in front of the bus.
- Make sure your child is able to behave safely before you let them travel by public bus on their own.
Coaches made or first used after 1 October 2001 are fitted with three point seat belts or retractable lap belt in all forward and rearward facing seats.
Passengers over the age of 14 years must wear a seat belt in coaches. Passengers must be notified of the requirement to wear a seat belt (usually by a notice on the vehicle, an announcement or a film), but each passenger is legally responsible for wearing their seat belt.
The law does not yet require passengers under 14 years old to wear a seat belt. However, all passengers are strongly advised to wear seat belts or the correct child seat on all journeys.
Coach operators are not required to provide child seats for child passengers. However, they may allow parents or others to supply their own child car seat for a use on a coach journey.
Minibuses are fitted with three point seat belts on forward facing seats, and three-point seat belts or lap belts in rearward-facing seats. Minibuses above 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight may have lap belts on forward-facing seats provided that any surface in front of the seat is an energy-absorbing surface.
Passengers in the front seats, and any exposed seat, must use a seat belt or an appropriate child car restraint.
Rear seats in small minibuses
All passengers in the rear of minibuses that have an unladen weight of 2,540 kg or less must wear seat belts or use an appropriate child restraint. It is the driver's responsibility to ensure that:
- Children under three years of age use an appropriate child restraint
- Children aged from three years up to their 12th birthday, and under 1.35 metres (approx 4'5") tall, use an appropriate child restraint if available, or if not available, wear the seat belt
- Children aged 12 and 13years (and younger children who are 1.35 metres or taller) use the seat belt.
Rear seats in larger minibuses
In minibuses over 2,540 kg unladen weight passengers aged 14 years or over must a wear seat belt. Passengers aged three to 13 years are not yet required by law to wear seat belts, although they are strongly advised to wear a seat belt, or to use a child restraint if one is available.
Passengers must be notified of the requirement to wear a seat belt (usually by a notice on the vehicle, an announcement or a film), but each passenger is legally responsible for wearing their seat belt.
Child Restraints on buses, minibuses and coaches
Operators are not required to provide child seats because it is not practical for them to carry a range of different child seats on their vehicles. However, they may allow parents or others to supply their own child car seat for a use on a minibus journey.
If possible, ask the trip organisers about child seats in advance. If they cannot provide one (which is likely) ask if you can use your normal one if it can be fitted to a coach seat. However it may not be possible to actually fit your child car seat onto a coach seat because coach seats are a different size and shape, and it may only have a lap-belt. So, check whether your child seat is compatible with the type of seat belt fitted on the coach or minibus.
In most cases, it is likely that the children will have to use the seat belt. Although not ideal, this is still far safer than not using any restraint. To maximise the protection provided by the seat belt:
- The belt should be worn as tight as possible
- The lap belt should go over the pelvic region, not the stomach
- The diagonal strap should rest over the child's shoulder, not their neck.
Three-point seat belts (lap and diagonal) provide greater protection than lap belts. However, lap belts are far better than no belt at all.
Do not be tempted to put a seat belt around yourself and a child on your lap; in an impact, your weight would crush the child.
If you are travelling with a baby, keep the baby in a rearward-facing baby seat and use the seat belt to secure it, if possible.
Ensure that your child knows that he or she must wear their seat belt at all times, whether you are travelling with them or whether they are travelling on a school trip, for instance.
Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles
Taxis and Private Hire vehicles are fitted with seat belts, and all passengers, including children, should use them.
In a licensed taxi or minicab:
- Children under 3 years of age can travel without a child's car seat or seat belt, but only in the rear of the vehicle
- Children aged 3 years or older can travel without a child's car seat if they wear an adult seat belt
However, child car seats can be used in taxis and private hire vehicles in the same way as in cars. Some drivers or companies have child seats available, so you could enquire at the time of booking. Or take your own seat with you. This may be awkward, but you wouldn't carry your child unsecured in your own car.
If you are travelling with a baby, keep the baby in a rearward facing baby seat and use the seat belt to secure it. If a child seat cannot be provided for older children, make sure that they wear a seat belt (this may not be practical for children under 3 years old), and that the:
- Belt is worn as tight as possible
- Lap belt goes over the pelvic region (from hip-bone to hip-bone), not the stomach
- Diagonal strap rests over the child's shoulder, not their neck.
If the seat belts in your taxi or private hire vehicle cannot be used (because the buckle is hidden under the seat, for example) ask the driver to fix the problem. If it cannot be fixed, do not use the vehicle. Book another one.
Purpose-built taxis (hackney carriages) have an integral booster cushion in the centre rear seat that can be used for older children (in the 22 - 36 kgs/48 - 79 lbs weight range).
If you come across an old vehicle that does not have seat belts being used as a private hire vehicle, do not use it. Book another one.