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Is Your Car Overcrowded?

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 7 Aug 2018 | comments*Discuss
Cars Car Seats Accident Vehicle Safety

As any conscientious driver will be aware, it's a very bad idea to drive anywhere with an overcrowded car. But is it possible that you might be doing it without realising?

First of all not only is it illegal to drive with too many people in the car it is also extremely dangerous and makes it far more likely that you'll be involved in an accident while on the road.

How Do I Know if My Car is Overcrowded?

This depends on the type of car that you drive. With the surge in popularity enjoyed by people carriers and 4x4s over the last few years, multi person vehicles have become more common. However there is a general rule of thumb that applies in most situations.

In any unmodified vehicle, you should only carry the number of people that can each sit in a manufactured seat with a seat belt. So if there are 6 or 7 seats in your people carrier, that's how many you should carry - you shouldn't try to squeeze 4 people onto seats for 3 just because you can.

When transporting children, you should follow the same rule for their Child Car Seats - one per manufactured seat. This is essential because otherwise the seat won't add to the safety of the children in your car, and may even have the opposite effect if you were to be involved in an accident. Check out Kiddicare for a great range of car seats.

Surely it's Ok if They Can Fit in the Seats?

Actually, no it's not. You might be able to fit 7 people into a mini, but it's not safe to drive while they are in it. Cars are manufactured with a certain number of passengers and weight ratio in mind, and if this is ignored can cause serious mechanical problems with the car, and safety problems for everyone in it. Never, ever put children, no matter how small they are in the boot of your car, or on a parcel shelf.

If your car is overcrowded and it weighs heavy, you run the risk of :

  • Dragging - when your car is too heavy it can cause the underside of the car to drag over speed bumps and when travelling up or down hill. Amongst other problems, this can damage exhausts and brackets which can be costly to repair.
  • Handling - more weight in your car than it was designed to carry can affect your steering and your braking which makes your car slow to respond and could lead to a nasty accident.
  • Headlights - excess weight can mean that your headlights will appear misaligned and could cause dazzling in drivers travelling in the opposite direction to you

Bear in mind too that if there are too many people in your car, then you might not be able to see out of the windows properly, which could be very dangerous. Not only this but more weight in your car will increase the wear and tear on your vehicle, and also increases your fuel consumption, so can cost you a lot more money in the long run.


Even your insurance could be at risk if you carry too many people in your car. Usually insurance companies allow for 5 people to travel in a single vehicle, but if your car has more manufactured seats in it, you should contact your insurer and let them know so that they can check you will be covered. If you do carry more people than your insurance allows, this will lead to your insurance being declared void in the case of any offence being reported to them, and this in turn will mean that you could face a charge of driving without valid insurance.

Being Stopped by Police

If you are stopped for an offence to do with overcrowding, it is likely that it would fall into one of the following categories:

  • The number of people you are carrying
  • The way they are carried - if someone is hanging out of the sunroof then it could get you into trouble.
  • If an object, such as wood or plants - the way you are carrying them is likely to cause a danger to others.

You may be given a ticket on the spot, or depending on the severity of the offence, you could be asked to come to court. If you are involved in an accident while transporting more people than you should have been, regardless of who is to blame, you could find it difficult to prove that you were not at fault. You may also leave yourself open to legal action from those who were travelling in your car, or in the case of children, their parents.

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Really horrible accident reported today on the news - five people killed on the M6 in a collision between a lorry and a Nissan Micra.There were SIX people in the Micra.The lorry driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving but was released under investigation.This does not mean that he did cause the accident but given that this was a small car (meant for 5 people max but arguably should really be 4), on a fast motorway that, as the article mentions, could have caused or at least contributed to this accident.Very sad, I think that the authorities need to rethink the law regarding the maximum numbers of passengers in small cars, this might have been prevented.
Food for Thought - 25-May-17 @ 11:56 AM
i know someone who has a 6 seater an is putting 7 people in it by puttin 2 of his kids on the floor so there are more seats for an adult an car seat they go everywhere like this an nothings done they dont care if the kids get hurt the driver falls asleep at the wheel due to meds hrs on wot should i do an wot will the police do hope he goes to court loses his licence an a big fine if these kids are killed or injured he will not forgive himself
whats this - 28-Apr-17 @ 4:23 PM
Insurance is not valid if you carry more than 5 people in a 5 seater car, this means even if someone crashes into you you will get no money
Millioner - 2-Dec-16 @ 2:27 PM
What about cars that have more designated seats than there is room for people? Many small cars have three seat belts and three head restraints in the rear suggesting that three adults could be seated there. However, the space available is not sufficient for even three small adults. Squeeze three in and the rear of the car would surely be overloaded and compromise the handling? No, not surely as I have seen it done and the rear of the car really droops. Manufacturers should be forced to fit only two seat belts in the rear of these cars and classify them as seating for two small people only.
roundthebenz - 30-Sep-11 @ 12:42 PM
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