American vehicles exempt from new U.K. child-seat statute, Air Force says
RAF MILDENHALL — The top U.S. Air Force legal office in the United Kingdom has issued a directive to servicemembers that if they drive an American car, they do not have to comply with a new British law requiring a European Union or U.K.-approved child safety seat.
Servicemembers in England who drive a U.K.-spec car, however, must use the U.K. or E.U.-approved seats, according to the Air Force.
But a spokesman from the British Department of Transport recommended that drivers of all vehicles, regardless of origin or place of manufacture, comply with the child-restraint law by Sept. 18.
“I’m not familiar with the U.S. forces, but the law requires any seat fitted must be of European standards,” said DOT spokesman Robert Hall. “It’s not the car that matters, whether British car or American car.”
The 16th Air Force legal office said it was sticking by its policy that only British-spec cars would be affected.
The director of legal services of the Air Force in the U.K., Col. Dean C. Rodgers, provided a written explanation of the Air Force’s interpretation under the Status of Forces Agreement, which defines the legal status of U.S. personnel and property in the territory of another nation.
“Vehicles brought temporarily into Great Britain by a resident abroad are exempted from the provisions … which specifies the types of approved child safety seat restraints,” the statement reads. “U.S. vehicles temporarily imported into the U.K. under the NATO Status of Forces agreement qualify for this exemption.”
Rodgers also added that American servicemembers driving British cars have always had to use British child restraints and the new law only reiterated that policy.
Rodgers said that if a U.S. military member or dependent is cited by British police for not having a proper safety seat in their American car, the Air Force legal office would coordinate with prosecutors to explain the SOFA and how it relates to servicemembers.
Despite there being no grace period for the law, Hall said motorists should not fret if they do not have the exact right seat immediately as officers are being directed to educate the public before issuing a 30-pound ($52) fine.
“There isn’t a grace period as such, but the police will operate on a common sense approach with the main goal of education,” Hall said.