Drivers and passengers aged 17-34 have the lowest seatbelt wearing rates combined with the highest accident rate.¹ And in a crash, you’re twice as likely to die if you don’t wear a seatbelt.2
But wearing a seatbelt is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do to protect yourself.
How your passenger can save your life
And it’s not just vital for those in the front of the car to be wearing a seatbelt – make sure the person sitting behind you does too.
Back seat passengers are even less likely to wear a seatbelt than front seat passengers3 but it’s essential for their safety – and the safety of others in the car.
In a crash, someone in the back seat can be thrown forward with enough force to kill the person in front of them. It is estimated that an unbelted rear passenger kills between 8 and 15 front seat passengers a year.4
If you need any further proof take a look at this video. It might seem a bit dated now but the message is as powerful as ever:
For your sake, always make sure that the person sitting behind you buckles up.
THINK seatbelts – Three Strikes
Watch this video to see how Richard sustains fatal injuries when he crashes without wearing a seatbelt. The car is travelling within the speed limit.
Quite simply, wearing a seatbelt (with a strap across your lap and chest) halves your risk of death in a crash.5
Everyone in the car should always wear a seatbelt – even if it’s only a short journey. Sometimes people think it won’t matter on short or familiar routes, but accidents happen anywhere and it could save your life.
Make sure you have enough seatbelts for everyone in the car. Never squash extra people in without belts, or sharing the same belt – that can be as dangerous as not wearing one at all.
Three-point seatbelts are much safer than lap belts (with only one strap going across the lap), because the shoulder strap on a three-point belt stops your body flying forwards in a crash.
Wearing your seatbelt
It’s important to watch how you wear your seatbelt too, so you have the best possible protection in a crash.
Make sure the belt that goes across your lap fits snugly over the pelvic region, not the stomach. The diagonal strap should rest securely across your chest and shoulders, not your neck or face. Keep the belt as tight as possible and make sure that nothing traps or obstructs the smooth movement of the belt.6
Embrace Life – always wear your seatbelt
In the UK, drivers – and passengers – must wear a seatbelt in the front and back of a vehicle (provided one is fitted in the seat you’re using). Drivers caught without a seatbelt face on-the-spot fines of £100, and, if prosecuted, can face a fine of up to £500.7
You’re only allowed 1 person in each seat fitted with a seat belt. And children must use the correct car seat for their weight until they reach 135 centimetres tall or their 12th birthday, whichever is first.8 It is the driver’s legal responsibility to ensure that any passenger under 14 years old is using the appropriate child restraint or an adult seat belt.
So, before setting off, make sure you and your passengers are buckled up – in the back seat and the front.
The only time you don’t need to wear a seat belt is if you’re reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversing. Or, if you have a medical exemption, in which case you must have a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’ from your doctor and keep it in your car to show to the police if you’re stopped.
If you have a medical exemption you will need to tell your car insurer.
Wearing a seatbelt while pregnant
By law, all pregnant women must wear a seat belt when travelling in the front or back seat of a car.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) suggests the safest way for a pregnant woman to wear a seat belt is to place the diagonal strap over the shoulder, not the neck, and between the breasts. The lap belt needs to be flat on the thighs, fitting comfortably beneath the belly, and over the pelvis not the bump. The belt should be worn as tight as possible.9
Pregnant women should not wear ‘Lap-only-Belts’ as they have been shown to cause serious injuries to unborn children in the event of a sudden deceleration.
Mother and baby are both safer in a collision if a seat belt (with a strap across your lap and chest) is being worn correctly.
Wearing a seatbelt if you have a disability
You must wear a seatbelt if you’re a disabled driver or passenger, unless you don’t have to for medical reasons. You may need to adapt your vehicle.
Full details of the UK legal requirements for seatbelts can be found here.
1, 2, 4, 7. think.direct.gov.uk/seat-belts.html
6, 9. http://www.rospa.com/roadsafety/adviceandinformation/vehiclesafety/in-carsafetycrash-worthiness/seat-belt-advice.aspx