It may seem like common sense these days to wear your seatbelt on every journey but it hasn’t always been that way. It’s only 30 years this year (2021) since the latest legislation came into place, and over 50 years since the first seatbelts were introduced. This change in the law is expected to have saved at least 50 million lives!
The Seatbelt Timeline
- 1913 – the first idea of wearing some form of restraint comes into play after a seaplane crash survivor suggests the idea
- 1930s – physicians in the US start fitting seatbelts into their own vehicles and begin urging car manufacturers to do the same
- 1950s – some manufacturers begin including lap belts in their cars and racing authorities make seatbelts mandatory for drivers
- 1959 – Volvo introduces the first-ever three-point lap and diagonal seat belts and shares the patents with all car manufacturers to increase mass adoption
- 1965 – Anchorage points required in vehicles
- 1968 – Three-point belts added in the front positions on all new cars and existing cars back to 1965
- 1970s – Government officials push for seatbelt legislation throughout the 70s but fail to get laws actioned.
- 1983 – It is compulsory for front seatbelts to be worn on all journeys. Wearing rates jump from 30% to almost 95% overnight.
- 1986 – Rear seat belts become compulsory to fit
- 1991 – Rear seat belts become compulsory to wear for adults and children
Who is exempt from wearing a seatbelt?
Yes, there are times when you don’t have to wear a seatbelt!
Reversing – if you are only reversing, or supervising a learner driver practising their reversing then you don’t legally need to wear your seatbelt.
Taxi drivers – when licensed taxi drivers are ‘plying for hire’, they are exempt however, their passengers are always required to belt up
Delivery drivers – when they are driving less than 50m, they aren’t required to wear a seatbelt
Medical reasons – some people are unable to wear a seatbelt due to medical reasons. In this case, you will need to have a certificate of exemption from compulsory seatbelt wearing kept in your vehicle at all times and you will also need to let your insurance company know.
What are the seatbelt laws around children?
Unsurprisingly, adults are responsible for the safety of the children in their vehicles. Children need to be using a car seat appropriate for their height and weight until they reach either 135cm in height or their 12th birthday, whichever is first. After this, they must continue to wear a seatbelt on all journeys, no matter how far. The driver is responsible for anyone in their car under 14, from age 14 the passenger becomes responsible for their own actions.
What happens if I am caught not wearing a seatbelt?
If you are spotted in a vehicle not wearing a seatbelt, you can expect to receive an on-the-spot fine of £100. When you are the driver and have children under 14 in your car and also not wearing a seat belt, you will receive another fine for each child.
If the case then goes to court, the fines can go up to £500.
Do animals need to wear seatbelts?
We all know that animals can be a distraction whilst driving. Just think how many times you’ve seen a dog with its head hanging out the window. Not only do vets not recommend this (as dust and bugs can fly into your pets’ eyes) but it also goes against the highway code Rule 57 states that dogs and other animals must be restrained in cars so they cannot distract you or injure you, or themselves if you stop quickly. A seat belt, harness or some form of travel cage will be allowed as a reasonable way to restrain your pets.
Can you fail your MOT because of your seatbelts?
Yes! Your seatbelt needs to be in full working order or you can expect to fail your MOT. The MOT test makes sure that your car is road legal and safe, and without your seatbelts, it definitely isn’t.
Seatbelt Statistics That Will Shock You
You would think the law is pretty easy to understand. It has been in place for 30 years now but there are some pretty shocking statistics about them. Firstly, if you don’t wear a seatbelt you’re twice as likely to die in an accident.
- Around 7% of people don’t wear seatbelts. So, if you’re twice as likely to die, that means 15% are at risk of death. However, figures show that 34% of all car crash fatalities weren’t wearing a seatbelt.
- People are more likely to wear a seatbelt on roads with a speed limit over 40mph even though serious injury or death has happened at lower speeds.
- Those aged between 17-34 are least likely to wear a seatbelt. This is most likely why road accidents are the single biggest killer of young people in the UK
- Wearing a seatbelt whilst driving became compulsory in 1983 which is expected to have saved around 50 million lives
- Driver caught not wearing a seatbelt face an instant fine of £100 which if prosecuted, can be up to £500
- Women are more likely to wear seatbelts than men which goes back to the “male idiot theory”
- Approximately 14% only occasionally wear seatbelts. This number increases after sunset with it being harder for police to enforce in low visibility