Seat Belt Safety

Here’s a bit of history……

Can you remember when cars didn’t have seat belts?

The Department for Transport have been promoting the use of seat belts since 1973, long before it became compulsory by law to use one. Then in 1983, front seat belt wearing regulations for drivers and passengers (both adult and children) came into force. In 1989, wearing rear seat belts became compulsory for children under 14, and in 1991, it became compulsory for all adults to wear seat belts in the back of a car.

Any driver under the age of 30 will not even remember the change – they should have been wearing a seat belt from the moment they first sat in a car as a passenger.

The Evidence ……

Seat belts can mean the difference between life and death in a car crash. Wearing a seat belt every time you enter a vehicle is not only the smart thing to do, but it is the right thing to do because it saves lives. Seat belts are designed to keep people in their seats, and so prevent or reduce injuries suffered in a crash. They ensure that as little contact as possible is made between the occupant and vehicle interior and significantly reduce the risk of being thrown from a vehicle.

The Facts

  • In a crash you are twice as likely to die if you are not wearing a seatbelt.
  • Drivers and passengers aged 17-34 have the lowest seatbelt-wearing rates combined with the highest crash rates.
  • There is evidence that people are less likely to use seatbelts on short or familiar journeys – this puts them at serious risk of injury in a crash.
  • Seatbelts reduce the risk of death in the event of a collision by around 50%.

The Law

The law is quite clear on this subject. You must wear a seat belt every time you travel by car no matter where you sit in the car or how far you travel. If not, both the driver and passengers who are caught with no seat belts (in the front or the back) are breaking the law and face an on-the-spot fine, and the risk of prosecution.


Just to make things even clearer, it is the responsibility of the adult passenger (not the driver) to make sure that they are using the seatbelt! For children under 14 years old it is the responsibility of the driver to make sure that they are wearing their seatbelts…however once the child is 14 years old it is up to them as passengers to take responsibility for wearing a seatbelt (although I’m sure a gentle reminder from the driver wouldn’t go amiss!).

Of course, there are (as always) a few exceptions* to the law. You’ll have to scroll down for these.

The excuses…..

We have all heard the excuses before, “Seatbelts are uncomfortable”, “I’m only going around the corner”, “I’d rather be thrown out of a car than be stuck in a seatbelt”, “I know these roads like the back of my hands” and, “I’m a good driver I don’t need to wear one”. NONE of these excuses are valid, the consequences are the same.

The majority of drivers would never dream of getting behind the wheel without a seatbelt on. You may be a good driver, but there are situations beyond your control that contribute towards a crash, such as bad weather, road conditions and the behaviour of other drivers or road users.

For those people who use the excuse that “I’m just going around the corner”, they need to know that 80% of traffic fatalities occur within a 25-mile radius of your home and at a speed of 40 miles an hour. Buckling up to drive around the block is probably one of the most important times to do so.

Whats happening in your neighbourhood…?

A recent survey was undertaken in and around a busy school in Leeds. The purpose was to observe and record how many people were or were not wearing a seat belt in the vehicles, the survey included drivers and passengers.

The traffic that was coming in and out of the school vicinity was monitored at various times during the day. School started at 9.00 a.m., and the road outside the school was very busy with lots of late arrivals dropping off at the school gates. There was also a high volume of local traffic along the road on which the school is located. The table below shows the results:

TimeNot wearingWearing
8.20 a.m. – 8.50 a.m.31207
8.50 a.m. – 9.05 a.m.20140
2.55 p.m. – 3.30 p.m.51190

This highlights just how prevalent not wearing a seatbelt was. It’s quite shocking to see that during the morning school run and in a period of less than 60 minutes, almost 13% of car occupants were NOT wearing their seat belts. Then, during the afternoon school run (only 35 minutes) over one fifth of car occupants were seen NOT wearing their seatbelts.

Final thought

This location has not been identified in order to highlight how easy it is for people to be seen not wearing their seatbelt and to remind people that all it takes is for the police to be undertaking a similar observation. You could then face a fine and/or prosecution. Or an even worse scenario – you could be involved in a road traffic collision and as stated previously the outcome isn’t that great for you or your passengers.

Evidence clearly shows that seatbelts DO save your life in a crash and can reduce your risk of a serious injury. Seatbelts keep drivers and passengers from being ejected through windows or doors. This is important because your chances of being killed are five times greater if you are thrown from the vehicle.

People DO die unnecessarily in car crashes every year, but some might still be alive today if they had only been wearing their seat belts. Everyone knows that car crashes can cause death; yet because people DO NOT buckle up, they are still willing to take the chance with their lives and that of their passengers.

seatbelt 1

The key message we are trying to get across is that wearing a seatbelt really could mean the difference between life and death – and that applies just as much to passengers as it does to drivers. Putting a seatbelt on is a quick and simple task, and a very effective way of reducing the consequences of a collision. That’s why wearing a seatbelt is not a matter of personal choice, but is compulsory for drivers and passengers in every European country.


Child car seats: the law

Seat Belts: Advice and Information Fact Sheet

Think video

Think video

* Exceptions to the law:

There are a few exceptions to the seatbelt law.

You don’t need to wear a seatbelt if you are a:

  • A driver who is reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversing
  • In a vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue services
  • A passenger in a trade vehicle and you are investigating a fault
  • Driving a goods vehicle on deliveries that is travelling no more than 50 metres
  • A licensed taxi driver who is ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers.

There may also be certain medical conditions that stop you from wearing a seatbelt, but your doctor must provide you with a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’. You must keep this in your vehicle at all times and show it if you are stopped. You will also need to inform your car insurance provider.

You must wear a seat belt if you’re pregnant, or disabled unless your doctor says you don’t have to for medical reasons. You may need to adapt your vehicle, in some cases.

Follow this link for Medical exemption advice on wearing a seatbelt.

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