The European Union Council of Ministers has approved in principle changes to the EU#;s seatbelt laws, that will insist every member state passes laws obliging motorists and passengers to wear belts and children aged under 12 to wear special seat restraints, writes Keith Nuthall.

Motorists would have a legal duty to inform passengers of their obligations.

Adopting a common position and sending the legislation back to the European Parliament for a second reading, the council also agreed that member states could delay the introduction of these rules for school transport (for five years) and for large families (for six years).

The exemption here would apply for families with more children sitting in the back of cars than there are seatbelts fitted.

The European Parliament had earlier amended the proposal so that children aged under 12, but taller than 150 cm, should be allowed to use adult seatbelts, because they would be too large to fit in child restraints.

The original European Commission suggestion was that such children needed to weigh at least 36kg. MEPs pointed out that this would disadvantage some gangly ‘tweens#;, who were lighter than this.

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Parliament also wants the Commission to promote information campaigns on seat belts and, in particular, on the risks of transporting a child in a rear-facing safety seat in the front passenger seat when the passenger side airbag has not been deactivated.