Help & Advice
In the first of our UK Driving Laws series, we’re tackling UK seat belt law, giving you all the information you need to protect yourself and other passengers from harm.
A 2009 study showed that roughly 400 people were killed in collisions a year because they weren’t wearing seat belts, and a more recent survey has shown that motorists between 17 and 34 year old have the lowest compliance rate, with millions still flouting the rules – a shocking statistic considering that a seat belt can half the likelihood of death in a road accident.
When it comes to passengers over the age of 14 travelling in a car, the rules are simple: A seat belt must be worn by the driver and all passengers in the vehicle, and seat belts must be worn individually – sharing seat belts is not permitted.
There are a few specific exceptions to the rules, which include:
Any adult passenger travelling by minibus, bus or coach is required to wear a seat belt if they are fitted. This is the responsibility of the passenger, and so it is they who will be prosecuted if caught. There are different rules for children travelling by these methods of transport, which we’ll discuss later on in this article.
Height-based seats must be rear-facing until the child reaches 15 months of age, while weight-based car seats can be facing forward once the child reaches 9kg.
Car seats should not be fitted in side-facing seats, and when fitted to a front seat the airbags on that side of the vehicle must be deactivated – it is illegal for a rear-facing child seat to be placed in the front seat if there is an airbag active.
A child under 3 years old may travel unrestrained in a taxi or private hire car under the circumstances that there is a fixed partition separating the front and back seats of the vehicle, there are no child restraints available and the journey was unexpected.
Children in vehicles must be sat in the correct booster seat for their size until they reach 135cm in height or 12 years of age, whichever comes first. Booster seats used within the UK must be EU-approved, shown on the label by a letter ‘E’ encased in a circle.
There are a few exceptions to the rules, in which a child may wear a seat belt if a child seat is not present:
All children must travel in rear seats of a bus or minibus – that is, any seat behind the driver – if there is not a seat belt fitted on the front seats.
When sitting in the rear seats of minibuses, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that children under 3 years old are wearing an appropriate restraint, children aged 3-12 years old and under 1.35 metres tall use a restraint if available, a seat belt if not, and that all other children under 14 years old are using the provided seat belts.
For larger minibuses and coaches, there are currently no legal obligations for children under the age of 14 to wear seat belts, although it is highly recommended.
Not wearing a seatbelt is perhaps one of the most reckless and dangerous actions a driver or passenger of a vehicle can commit, and not only does this action put their own life at risk, it endangers the lives of others.
The most common injuries in front on collisions for those not wearing seat belts are to the head, chest and abdomen, causing internal bleeding, fractured and broken ribs and traumatic brain injuries ranging from concussions to impaired cognitive functioning. Medical figures show that over half of all reported traumatic brain injuries are caused by brains colliding against the skull or windshield during a car crash.
40,000 people die each year in car crashes, making road collisions the leading cause of death for people under the age of 35, and simply wearing a seatbelt could have prevented half of these deaths.
The penalty for failing to wear a seat belt as a driver or passenger is a £100 fine, and if the case is taken to court, this could be increased to up to £500. The same fines apply if you are the driver of a vehicle carrying child passengers who aren’t wearing the appropriate child car seats.
Having these penalties on your record may affect any claims against your car insurance, even voiding the cover in some cases, meaning that you will be responsible for covering any damages or costs yourself.
Penalty points are also issued for failing to wear a seat belt; three penalty points for drivers not wearing seat belts or carrying child passengers who aren’t wearing seat belts and two points are applied to passengers’ licences if they are over the age of 14 and are not wearing a seat belt.
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All statistics and figures were taken from independent research not carried out by The Windscreen Company and were correct at the date of publishing.