Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 5 April 2022
Find out why seat belts improve safety with some great seat belt stats. Check to see if you're less likely to wear one!
Wearing a seat belt: the rules
When I was growing up (admittedly a long time ago!), it seemed that every time I switched on the telly there was another advert about the importance of wearing seat belts. Public information films constantly told us to ‘clunk-click every trip’ and ‘belt up’ every time we got in a car. As a result, my Dad would spend ages making sure that the front and rear seat belts were adjusted and working before he would even start the engine.
Things have moved on a bit since then. We now live in a world of inertia-reel seat belts and seat-belt pre-tension mechanisms, as well as in-car technology that offers a little prompt every time you attempt to drive off without wearing your seat belt. Sadly, despite these innovations (and the campaigning work done by organisations such as Think!), people can and still do drive without wearing one.
Here’s why you should not ...
Seat belts are one of the bedrocks of car safety. It’s a legal requirement to wear them in the UK. This is rule 99 of The Highway Code
'You MUST wear a seat belt in cars, vans and other goods vehicles if one is fitted.'
If you wear the three-point type of belt (you’ll be familiar with these – they’re common to modern vehicles and feature a strap across the chest and the lap), then you’re 50% less likely to die in the event of a crash.* Back-seat passengers should not ignore the rules either. If a seat belt is fitted, then they MUST wear it.
A belting statistic
If this does not persuade any stragglers to put on their belts, then perhaps some stats from the Department for Transport’s own research will. Their official figures show that 34% of car occupants killed in road traffic incidents were not wearing seat belts.** It’s a sobering thought, especially when you consider how quick and easy it is to clip a seat belt into place.
A click in time …
Who is not wearing a seat belt? Research tells us that young drivers are more likely to break the rules.***. That said, failing to wear a seat belt is not exclusive to those groups. Every driver should check (like my Dad) that they’ve done the safety basics before they release the handbrake.
This is not the whole story – there are different rules for children under 14 and some drivers who own vintage vehicles are exempt from wearing belts. To find out more, pick up a copy of The Official Highway Code or visit our colleagues at Think! You can also find more information on safety, maintenance and defensive driving techniques by getting hold of The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills.
* Handbook of Road Safety, 2009
** Department for Transport, 2008. Road Safety Research Report 98, Strapping Yarns: Why People Do and Do Not Wear Seat Belts