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The strapping argument for seat belts. Everything you need to know to uphold safety and the law

By Ian Whittaker a serious injury legal expert at Irwin Mitchell

At Irwin Mitchell, we've seen a significant number of cases from drivers of motor vehicles not wearing seat belts.  We have first-hand knowledge of the devastating impact on our clients' lives when a seat belt is not worn when involved in a road traffic collision.

Did you know that you are twice as likely to die in a road traffic accident if you do not wear your seat belt?  A pretty damning and harrowing statistic.

Should you wear a seat belt?

Unless you are exempt, you must, by law, wear a seat belt.  You can be fined up to £500 if you are caught not wearing a seat belt when you ought to be.

You even need to wear your seat belt if you are pregnant or disabled unless you are exempt medically.

So exactly what are those exemptions?

There are certain exemptions from not wearing a seat belt but they are few and far between.  The only ones are if you are:

  • a driver who is reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversing;
  • in a vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue services;
  • a passenger in a trade vehicle and you’re investigating a fault;
  • driving a goods vehicle on deliveries that is travelling no more than 50 metres between stops;
  • a licensed taxi driver who is ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers;
  • have a certificate of exemption from your doctor which must be kept in your vehicle and can be ready and shown to the police if necessary.

If you are medically exempt, you must tell your insurance company.

Transporting children

You must only ever use one seatbelt per occupant.  Never put two people (and in particular children) in the same seat belt as you.

The child must be in the proper car seat for both the weight and height until they reach 135 centimetres in height or their 12th birthday, whichever comes first.

If you are driving a classic car that wasn’t fitted with seatbelts when manufactured, you are not able to carry children under the age of three.  Any child over the age of three cannot sit in the front.

What the statistics show

People in age groups 17 – 34 are most likely not to wear a seatbelt.

People who are carrying out shorter, more familiar routes are more likely not to wear a seat belt.

Over the last 10 years or so, the percentage of car occupants killed who were not wearing a seatbelt, stood at around 20 per cent.

What are the risks if I don’t wear a seat belt?

You already know that you double your chance of death if you don’t wear a seat belt if you have an accident, but the risks don’t stop there.

You significantly run the risk of sustaining more serious injuries if you don’t wear a belt. 

We at Irwin Mitchell have significant experience in dealing with cases where people have either been ejected out of a vehicle through a window or sustained a serious head injury from simply not wearing a seatbelt. 

If a rear seat passenger does not wear a belt, this can cause crush injuries to other occupants in a vehicle from being flung about in the vehicle at the time of a crash.

The consequences can and often are devastating.

If you have to make a claim for injuries

If you are involved in an accident that is not your fault, you could lose up to 25 per cent of your compensation by not wearing a seatbelt if your injuries would otherwise have been avoided. 

Alternatively, your compensation may be reduced by 15 per cent if your injuries would have been less severe that they were.

In most circumstances, if it can be shown that an injury would not have been as severe or would not have occurred at all, such a reduction is almost inevitable. 

Why would you chance it?

The short answer is don’t.  Always buckle up before you start up your engine and set off.  It really could save your life.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by road collisions at our dedicated road traffic accident section.  

Unless you are exempt, you must, by law, wear a seat belt. You can be fined up to £500 if you are caught not wearing a seat belt when you ought to be.”