What's the law on car seats for under 10s?

Trying to get to the bottom of car seat regulations over here for children under 10 travelling in the back of the car. Specifically whether a child under 10 but over 35kg still needs a booster seat (un réhausseur sans dossier). Clearly I am going to keep my "precious" in a car seat for as long as is humanly possible (!) but a friend's child threw a wobbler because I insisted he sat in a car seat as he wasn't 10 yet. I've tried various searches but am not clear whether a seat belt is enough for an under 10 even if they are tall (and therefore over 36kg).

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A very useful cheap piece of equipment (if that is the right word) is a triangle seat belt restraint. Googling this I found one by Checai. All they do is bring the seatbelt down to a useable height for children over the age of about 7. They can be used with or without a booster seat. Can be kept in the car at all times.

They need to be over 1m50 and 36kg (so about 10 or 11 for the average child) not to have a booster seat or other car seat & they have to go in the back whether they have a carseat/booster seat or not. A very small adult would also technically be better off with a seat, but as they are of age they aren't the responsibility of the driver in the same way as a minor ie you can't compel an adult to sit on a booster seat but if a child (deemed to need one) isn't using one and the Gendarmes are feeling particularly picky they will throw the book at you, because they can. Mind you I had, simultaneously, 4 car seats and a baby-bucket-seat in my car, the Gendarmes thought it was v funny.


There was a report on UK TV a year or so ago of some research done which seemed to suggest that providing the child is tall enough ( or on a booster seat) for the seat belt to be worn over the shoulder then there is NO advantage safety-wise to being in a car seat.

I always find it easier to obey what seems like a daft rule, if I can find out why it is being imposed.

just did quick french google and found this


they seem to be saying that with a child seat, the lap belt holds the thighs and not the abdomen.

they also see to say that until 10 years old the abdomen of children is too fragile to accept the impact of the belt, hence why it doesnt matter how high your child is, they need to wear a seat till they are ten ( our Charlie (8), will not be pleased.

I noticed that they didnt mention the risk if the childs head is now above the height of the seat back, or if the belt is not correctly placed at the top......

I am currently cramming for the code de la route exam on the 28th. They go into great detail on this topic. They are particularly concerned with disabling the passenger side airbag when utilizing front seat, rear facing enfant seats. I attach the relevant page from the workbook.

Can you please post the title of the leaflet so I can ask for a copy in local gendarmerie. My son, just 7 is 136cm tall, because of his age I’d rather keep him in the back in his booster but it would be great to get a copy!

We have a tall daughter (over the 99.9 percentile) so she out grew her seats very quickly. We checked around and were assured that the EU height rule (135cm) was the one in force so she stopped using her seat very early. We never had any problems, but like many things here I suspect there will be differences of opinion between different gendarmes.

Hi Helen,
I’d be interested to know how tall your daughter is, my daughter is also tall and fairly heavy (not overweight as the doctor weighed her and was surprised by her weight, she weighs a lot more than she looks).
Gendarmes aren’t always right, I’ve been pulled over in the past and told my licence isn’t valid because I live in France (we live in a small town with few foreigners). I don’t argue because, as far as I am concerned, the police are always right unless it is a major infringement of my civil liberties. However, as my daughter is getting too big for her car seat it is soon going to become an issue.

Hey Zena,
Do you have a copy of the leaflet please? It really is an issue for us, my daughter is so tall, she is in the top 10 percentile of the height/weight charts and at 1.26m at only 6 years old, I don’t need a book to tell me she is tall!

Our school had a gendarme come in a give a talk about road security ect. I asked him as my son was 9 and desperate to get in the front of the car and get rid of his booster seat, he gave me a leaflet and told me that the child should be 10yrs old, but if the child was 1m35 and under 10yrs old that was OK.

We had a different car seat problem, when to move our daughter up to the forward facing seat. She was 20m old but still didn’t weigh 9 kilo (which was the minimum weight for the forward facing seat). In the end I asked our GP because it seemed to be about their neck strength & height as well as weight. The manufacturers guidelines didn’t help as she’s low in weight for her age but as her little knees were crumpled completely in the rear facing we felt it must be time to move her up to the next seat.
What a dilemma! Especially as there is new research saying they should stay rear facing up to 4!
She’s happy & safe now in her forward facing seat having finally reached 9 kilos last week (fully clothed I might add!).
I am also amazed though when I see kids travelling in cars on the knees of their parents or just jumping around in the back. It seems to happen a lot round here.

My daughter is very tall for her age so I stopped using the booster when she was seven. I got pulled over by the Gendarmes, when they found out she was under 10 they said she had to have a booster til she was ten. I pointed out that the seat belt wasn’t in the right place if she was on a booster, he said sorry madame, that’s the law.

I too found the government info. vague so that’s why I consulted the gendarmerie. They were quite helpful but with a bit of French shrug! They said it may depend on how the individual gendarme interpretates the law and in general terms they said that as long as the seat belt sits at the correct height on the child, i.e. on the shoulder, then it would be OK. I do wonder if anyone does get stopped for this? I know adults not wearing seat belts have been stopped and fined but not because children were not.

There is the other “law” about how old the children can be to sit in the front. The gendarmerie said 12 years old, but i.m.h.o. it depends on the size of the child. As well as the seat belt, there’s the airbag to think of too. I think, as Tracy said, common sense rules. Seat belt and seat positions can vary from car to car so I don’t think you can have a definitive rule. It has to be right for the child. B.T.W. I know what you mean by the seat belts cutting in your neck, I sat in the middle seat in the back of a car yesterday. The 3-point seat belt cames down from the roof and was really uncomfortable across my neck. I had to put the collar of my coat up to stop it rubbing. I’m average height so it must be really bad on a child.

My translation of the leaflet is that there is no age or height limit as in the UK, just that they must be sat in an appropriate seat for their weight. It suggests that they use a rehausser for their comfort until they are 10 but doesn’t say it is compulsory. Then at the top it says that a child may use a seat belt provided they are big enough!
Clear as mud really!
I guess you have to use common sense - my 6 year old is already 1m26 and weighs about 25 kilo so it wont be long before we are dispensing with the seat. I might use it instead as I’m only 1m57 and in some cars the seatbelt goes across my neck! (long legs, short body) lol

Thanks Kirsten and Karen, I knew it was a smart move to join survivefrance.com! I’m with you on being a battleaxe as I like to sleep at night. I am regularly astounded on the school run seeing children hanging out of car windows, standing in the rear between the two front seats, and other hair-raising and generally unrestrained postions. I know it’s only a short distance to a sleepy village but better safe I say.


Kirsten is right and running a car hire business we often get asked this question. I have discussed it with the gendermerie too. The French rules work more on the height of the child rather than the weight. As a basic rule of thumb, we tell our clients that they should use the seat as they would use in the UK.

On a personal note, I have ferried around many French kids and always insist that it’s my car and my rules. I’m sure they think I’m a battleaxe but I rather be that then be responsible for any injures they incurred by not using one. I know several of my children’s friends who don’t wear a seat belt let alone use a car seat in their cars. That, and having too many people in the car so there are not enough seat belts. I always insist that my kids have a seat belt on their own, i.e. not with someone on their lap. I once had this situation with the local centre de loisirs so now make it very plain that the kids must have the right car seat/seat belt when travelling in one of their vehicles. Apart from anything it’s the law, but there are many who think it is not a very important law so not a problem.

Hello Katherine,

It’s the law that children until the age of 10 have to be seated in an appropriate car seat/booster seat.

Here’s the link to the sécurité routiere pdf information document http://www2.securiteroutiere.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/sric4_depliant_siege_enfant_2006_02_01.pdf

However the criteria is that the seat belt must rest on the shoulder not around the neck so I suppose if the child was tall for his age and could sit without a booster seat and meet these requirements that would be OK but don’t take my word for it!


Europe regulations are :child needs to be 135cm in height to be in the car without the car seat ,on the back seat of the car :slight_smile: