EU legislation currently in force (Directive 91/671/EEC) requires that all occupants of passenger cars and light vans use seat belts. Children under 12 years of age have to be restrained by an approved restraint system suitable for the child's height and weight.
The Directive leaves scope however for Member States to allow children of 3 years and older to be restrained by an adult seat belt. It also permits Member States to exempt children younger than 3 years of age from wearing child restraints if they are seated in the rear and if child restraints are not available in the car
In 2003, a new Directive (Directive 2003/20/EC) was passed that extends the obligatory use of seat belts to occupants of all motor vehicles, including trucks and coaches. It also mandates the use of appropriate child restraint systems for all children travelling in passenger cars and light vans. The only permissible exemption concerns children younger than 3 years of age who may or may not wear seat belts (typically lap belts) in coaches.
The reinforced legislation has to be transposed into national law by 9 May 2006. Some countries apply stricter provisions than those included in the 1991 Directive already (see Clifford Chance report, parts I and II).