A Brief Guide to UK Seat Belt Law

By: Lisa Harper

Seat belts have been a legal requirement for many years now, but how many of us are actually aware of the seat belt law and how it may affect us.

The UK Seat Belt Law states:

- You must wear a seat belt if one is fitted in the seat you are using (exceptions apply)

- Only one person should sit in a seat fitted with a seat belt

The Purpose of a Seat Belt

Essentially seat belts are designed to help protect us in the event of a crash. They reduce the chances of an occupant coming into contact with the interior of the vehicle thereby reducing the chance of injury. They also reduce the chance of occupants from being thrown from the vehicle.

A Brief history of Seatbelt Law in UK

1983 - front seat belt wearing regulations introduced for drivers and passengers (adults & children)

1989 - wearing back seat belts became compulsory for children under the age of 14.

1991 - wearing back seat belts became compulsory for adults as well.

The law is constantly undergoing review particularly regarding child safety in cars so keep up to date with the latest developments to ensure you aren’t flouting the law.

Consequences of Not Wearing a Seatbelt

Being caught not wearing a seat belt in the UK carries a fine usually around £100 with a maximum fine if prosecuted of £500.

In most cases being caught without a seat belt on doesn’t usually result in penalty points on your licence.

REMEMBER: The driver of the vehicle is responsible for making sure all children passengers are wearing a seat belt or are in the correct car seat/booster seat for their age/height. Failure to comply can result in the driver being issues a fine as outlined above.

Child Car Seat Law

Child Car Seat Law

Currently children must be in the correct child car seat for their height/weight until they reach their 12th birthday or are over 135cm tall.

Recent updates mean that manufacturers can no longer make backless boosters for children shorter than 125cm or weighing less than 22kg. This doesn’t mean it’s illegal to travel your child in a backless booster if you already own one, you just will no longer be able to buy one.

Similarly since the start of the year manufacturers have only be able to sell i-size compliant child seats. Again using an existing non i-size child seat will not be illegal, it’s just that they won’t be available for purchase.

Research is constantly being carried out into children’s safety when travelling in cars. The result is that the law surrounding children’s seat belt and child car seat use is constantly being updated.

For the best advice speak to child car seat retailers who will be able to give up to date advice on current car seat regulations and will help ensure you are fitting and using the car seat correctly.

Some Interesting UK Seat Belt Facts

- The Road Safety Observatory states that the introduction of the seat belt law saved the lives of 241 drivers and 147 front passengers in 1983.

- Drivers between the ages of 17-34 who’ve been legally required to wear seat belts virtually their entire lives have been found to have the lowest seat belt wearing rates.

- Evidence suggests people are less likely to use a seat belt when travelling on a short or familiar journey. However seat belts should always been worn regardless of journey length.

-European studies have found that seat belt wearing rates were 97.5% in vehicles fitted with seat belt reminder systems and 85.5% in vehicles without.

- The Road Safety Authority conducted a survey in 2017 and found that 28% of 17-34 year old women admitted to wearing their seat belt the wrong way. Reasons for this ranged from relieving neck tension, improving general comfort, protecting their clothing and even protecting their fake tan. Remember nothing is worth more than your life so you should always wear your belt correctly


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