A Guide to: Seat Belt Legislation
by Sarah Lomas
It has been a legal requirement to have seat belts in the front and rear of cars for 30 years, but many people still don’t fully grasp the legislation.
We all understand the reasoning behind the legislation and the safety implications of not wearing one. But do you know what happens if you’re caught driving without a seat belt on? Or who’s responsibility it is if your passenger isn’t wearing one? And what are the exemptions from the law?
Follow our guide to understand everything you need to know about the law surrounding seat belts.
What is the basic seat belt legislation?
First and foremost, if your vehicle has seat belts that you legally have to wear them. You’re also only allowed one person in each seat fitted with a seat belt.
Unless your car is a very old classic car then it’s unlikely your vehicle won’t have seat belts. It has been a legal requirement in the UK since 1965 that all cars must have anchorage points fitted in the front of new cars and two years later, in 1967, for seat belts to be fitted in front seats.
By 1987, all new cars sold in the UK legally had to have rear seat belts fitted too, although most manufacturers were already fitting them as standard. In 1989 it became a legal requirement for children travelling in the back of cars to wear seat belts and in 1991 adult passengers had to also wear seat belts in the back of cars.
What are the seat belt laws for children?
Children must be in the correct car seat for the height or weight until they reach 135cm tall or their 12th birthday (whichever is first). After this they must be wearing a seat belt.
The driver is responsible for children aged up to 14 travelling as passengers. Anyone over the age of 14 is responsible for their own actions.
What are the exemptions from wearing a seat belt?
Taxis – Licensed taxi drivers who are ‘plying for hire’ don’t need to legally wear a seat belt, although it’s recommend they do. Passengers, however, must legally wear one.
Delivery Drivers – If a drivers is travelling no more than 50m between stops then they don’t need to wear a seat belt.
Reversing – A driver who is reversing or supervising a learner driver who is reversing doesn’t need to adhere to the law.
Investing a Fault – Only if you’re in a trade vehicle, you can be a passenger and not wear a seat belt if you’re investigating a fault.
Police, Fire & Rescue – If you’re travelling in a vehicle being used for this purpose then it is not a requirement to wear a seat belt.
Medical Reasons – If you have a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’ you must keep it in your vehicle and inform your insurance company.
Do animals need to wear seat belts?
Having loose animals in the car can be a distraction while driving and cause an accident. That’s why Rule 57 of the Highway Code states that dogs and other animals must be restrained in car. This can either be a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard.
What is the punishment for not wearing a seat belt?
If you’re caught travelling in a vehicle not wearing a seat belt you could get an on-the-spot Fixed Penalty Notice of £100. Not wearing a seat belt isn’t an endorsable offence so you won’t get any penalty points on your driving licence.
Everyone over the age of 14 is responsible for their own actions, so if you’re a passenger you will also receive a fine. The driver will receive a fine for each child passenger under 14 travelling without a seat belt.
If the case goes to court, the fine could increase to £500.
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