What are the laws around wearing seatbelts for drivers, passengers and children? What are the associated fines or penalties, and why is it so important to wear a seatbelt? Find out what you need to know about seatbelt safety in this article.

Why Wear A Seatbelt?

Seatbelts can protect us from minor harsh breaks to severe car accidents, but despite this, and the fact that you have to wear a seatbelt by law, some are still willing to take the risk.

 If you end up in a crash, a seatbelt can:

  •  Stop you from being thrown out of your seat
  • In the front seats, this will likely mean not being thrown through the windscreen.
  • In the rear seats, this will likely mean not being thrown into the seat in front of you; this impact could injure or kill the person in front of you.

Apart from the fact it could be breaking the law, wearing a seatbelt could potentially save your and others’ lives. Not wearing your seatbelt may seem like a small offence at the time, but the consequences can be devastating. Therefore, you need to always wear your seatbelt.

The Penalty For Not Wearing A Seatbelt

Under current legislation, motorists in England, Scotland and Wales who do not wear their seatbelts are given a £100 fine on the spot. This can rise to £500 if found guilty in court but without the threat of points on your licence.

The Department for Transport published a Road Safety Action Plan, and the new punishment for not wearing a seatbelt is one of 74 measures included.

There have also been talks of fitting alcohol sensors to cars driven by people convicted of drinking and driving, which will immobilise the vehicle if they are over the legal limit. 

New 2021 Rules On Wearing A Seatbelt

The plan published by the Department for Transport lays out that failure to wear a seatbelt could result in penalty points as well as fines, under new plans to reduce the number of deaths on UK roads.

Those who are caught without a seatbelt will be given the opportunity to take an online course, instead of taking the penalty points. The seatbelt awareness course will cost £53 and will be similar to courses for speeding offences. This comes as the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) stated that the existing fine is no longer a suitable deterrent.

When Were Seatbelts Made Compulsory?

There are three noteworthy years in terms of making seatbelts compulsory. And most people over the age of 40 may remember a time when they weren’t, which is a strange thought in current times.

When Did You Have To Start Wearing A Seatbelt In The UK?

  • Drivers and front-seat passengers had to wear seatbelts by law in the UK in 1983.

  • Rear seatbelt use was then made compulsory for children in 1989 and adults in 1991.

Are There Exceptions To The Laws On Wearing A Seatbelt?

Most people should be wearing a seatbelt at all times in a vehicle, but there are a few exceptions to the law that are worth knowing. These are:

  • If you are a driver who is reversing or supervising a learner driver who is reversing
  • If you are a passenger in a trade vehicle and you’re investigating a fault
  • If you are a licensed taxi driver who is carrying passengers
  • If you are in a vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue services
  • If you are driving a goods vehicle on deliveries that are travelling no more than 50 metres between stops

All up to date information surrounding this can be found as part of The Highway Code, road safety and vehicle rules, at GOV.UK.

Can You Be Medically Exempt From Wearing A Seatbelt?

Your doctor may say you don’t have to wear a seat belt for medical reasons. If so, they can issue you a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seatbelt Wearing’. If you have this certificate, there are three actions to be made by you. You must:

  • Keep it in your vehicle
  • Show it to the police if you are stopped
  • Inform your car insurance company

Talk to your doctor for more information and read ‘medical exemptions from compulsory seatbelt wearing’.

Do You Need To Wear A Seatbelt When Pregnant?

You must wear a seatbelt if you are pregnant unless your doctor says you don’t have to for medical reasons.

Do You Need To Wear A Seatbelt If You Are Disabled?

You must wear a seatbelt if you are a disabled driver or passenger unless you don’t have to for medical reasons.

You may need to adapt your vehicle and get a specialised disabled driver and adapted vehicle Motability insurance policy.

If you are in doubt about any medical exemptions to wearing a seatbelt, talk to your GP.

Are Children Responsible For Their Seatbelt?

You must make sure that any children in the vehicle you’re driving are:

  • In the correct car seat for their height or weight until they reach 135cm tall or their 12th birthday, whichever is first
  • Wearing a seat belt if they’re 12 or 13 years old, or younger and over 135cm tall

The driver is responsible for ensuring each child passenger aged up to 14 wears a seatbelt. Take note that you could be fined for each child not wearing a seatbelt while you are driving.

What If Your Car Doesn’t Have Seatbelts?

If your vehicle doesn’t have seatbelts, for example, if it is a classic car, the law states that you aren’t allowed to carry any children under three years old in it. Furthermore, children over the age of three are only allowed to sit in the back seats.

The driver and passengers are permitted not to wear a seat belt, but this law only applies if the car was originally made without seatbelts.

Does Northern Ireland Have Different Seatbelt Laws?

The law is different in Northern Ireland, where failure to wear a seatbelt can lead to a £500 fine and three penalty points.