I’m sure we all know that it’s the law, in the UK, that we have to wear seatbelts in cars. However, do you know that it is your responsibility, as the driver, that everyone under the age of 14 must be wearing a seatbelt in your car? If you are stopped and they are not wearing a seatbelt, or correctly restrained in a child car seat or booster seat, you’re actually eligible for a fine of £500, alongside a hefty 3 points on your driving licence. There are also specific laws that state at what age/height a child should be using a child seat, or wearing a seatbelt.
Since many of us know the law, but not the exact terms of the law, we thought we would write a quick post on seat belt legislation in the UK. This is so our customers, and anyone who comes across this blog, are not only fully aware and informed, they can avoid large fines and points on their licence and, most importantly, be as safe as possible in their new lease car.
When it comes to passengers over the age of 14 travelling in a car, the rules are simple: A seat belt must be worn by the driver and all passengers in the vehicle, and seat belts must be worn individually – sharing seat belts is not permitted. Basically, if they're over 14, it's the responsibility of the individual to make sure they're wearing a seatbelt. If they're under the age of 14, it's your responsbility to make they're wearing a seatbelt.
“The law states that you must use a seat belt if fitted unless you qualify for a medical exemption and have the certificate to prove it. You should know how to correctly use a seat belt, child restraint, car seat or booster seat.” - Official Government website
THE LAW & WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
So as we mentioned above, the driver and all passengers over 14 years old must wear a seat belt, if there is one available. This is true for cars, vans and any other commercial vehicles. The driver of the vehicle is responsible for insuring that themselves, and the children in their cars, are correctly and safely belted up / restrained in a car seat or booster. See below for the exact details, including ages and heights below;
Font seat: Seat belt must be worn
Rear sear: N/A
Who’s responsible? Driver
Child Under 3 Years Old
Font seat: Correct child / restraint must be used
Rear seat: Correct child seat / restraint must be used. May travel unrestrained if none available in a taxi
Who’s responsible? Driver
Child 3 years up, to 135cm in height or 12th birthday (whichever they reach first)
Font seat: Correct child seat / restraint must be used where seat belts are fitted.
Rear seat: Correct child seat / restraint must be used where seat belts are fitted.
If child seat / restraint not available in a rear seat, the fitted / adult belt must be used. Please note: this is only for a short distance as an unexpected necessity, in a taxi or if two occupied child restraints prevent fitting a third
Who’s responsible? Driver
Child 12 & above, or over 135cm in height
Font seat: Seatbelt or correct child restraint must be used if fitted
Rear seat: Seatbelt or correct child restraint must be used if fitted
Who’s responsible? Driver
All passengers 14 and over
Font seat: Seat belt must be worn if fitted
Rear seat: Seat belt must be worn if fitted
Who’s responsible? Passenger
WEARING A SEATBELT ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT – BUSES / COACHES / MINIBUS / GOODS VEHICLES
If you are over 14 years of age and travelling in a minibus, on a coach or a bus; all drivers and passengers MUST wear a seatbelt, if fitted.
In terms of children from ages 3 to 13 using seat belts/car safety restraints on public transport, who would be responsible if they were without seatbelt or restraint is still being deliberated
It is not legal for passengers to be carried in the back of a good vehicle in an unsafe manner, without seatbelts or correct safety restraints. The responsibility, if one was to do so, could lie with the driver, the van owner or the employer.
As with most laws, there will always be some exemptions under certain circumstances. Most of the time, any person in a car MUST wear a seat belt, however here are a few times or reasons why you could be exempt;
A licensed taxi driver who is 'plying for hire' or carrying passengers - This sounds like a strange one and, after a bit of research on this, it's an old law that is still, quite bizarrely, in place today. Cabbies are exempt from wearing seatbelts for 'safety reasons' as it could make them more vulnerable in a seatbelt if a passenger uses it to pin the driver against their seat, and rob them. It is also said that it's due to them having to get in and out frequently to help with luggage. (We are personally quite surprised by this law since many cabs these days are app based/cash-free and London cabs have driver protection screens/cubbies)
Driving a goods vehicle, on deliveries, that is travelling no more than 50 metres between stops
A driver who is reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversing – We weren’t aware of this law either, that suggests people may take their seatbelt off if reversing a car.
If you are exempt on medical grounds – In some circumstances, a doctor may issue a 'Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing' if they decide that it is not suitable for a passenger/driver to wear a seat belt on medical grounds. There are many considerations and assessments before this certificate is granted, and it must be carried at all times in a car, and presented if stopped by the police.
DISABLED PASSENGERS / DRIVERS
For some disabled or less abled people, it may not always be possible or easy to wear a seatbelt properly. In these cases, they may go the doctor and apply for a seatbelt exemption. Where possible, it is advised to consider the range of devices available that can overcome difficulties in wearing a seatbelt. These can include;
Drop links - designed to drop the seat belt and lower it down to your shoulder, altering the lie of the diagonal so it's not rubbing against your neck. It’s particularly useful for smaller people or those with restricted growth.
Pulla Belts / Seat Belt Reacher – This is a simple add-on device that aids in pulling the seatbelt around you. Great for those who can’t reach and stretch back to pull the standard seatbelt.
PREGNANT DRIVERS / PASSENGERS & SEATBELT SAFETY
It is always advised to wear a seatbelt as it is crucial in keeping you safe in a car, should a collision happen. It is definitely trickier to wear a seatbelt when pregnant, especially towards the end of your pregnancy when your bump is the biggest. It is perfectly within the law to keep driving throughout your whole pregnancy, but it must be safe to do so, and you must be able to comfortably and correctly manoeuvre the car. Although you are able to apply for a seatbelt exemption from a doctor when pregnant, instead here are a few tips to keep you comfortable in a seatbelt, and therefore safer, for you and your baby;
Lay the diagonal strap of the seatbelt between your breasts, and then move it around the side of your bump. This will take some pressure off your breasts and bump.
Ensure that your lap strap part of the seatbelt is under your bump and as low as possible across your hips.
If you’re the driver and need to adjust the chair back for your bump, make sure that you can still reach all of the pedals correctly and safely. You’ll also have to check and adjust your mirrors if you move.
Use a tummy shield or similar tested and approved pregnancy seatbelt aid. This will ensure that you are safe and buckled up, whilst keeping the belt away from your bump.
CARRYING CHILDREN IN A CAR – CHILD CAR RESTRAINTS / CAR SEATS / BOOSTER SEATS
As we are probably already aware, it is absolutely imperative that we look after and are responsible for the children and youngsters that ride in our car. As a driver, whether they are your children or not, whether they are 3 or 13, we must ensure that they are safe and legal in your care and car. Here are a few tips and facts about carrying children in your vehicle;
You must ensure that every child under 135cm (approximately 4ft 5in) in height, or up to 12 years of age (whichever occurs first),must use a suitable child restraint, one that is suitable for your child’s height or weight.
This restraint must be installed correctly and safely
Any child restraint used must conform to EU safety standards. That’s either Regulation 44.04 or Regulation 129 (also known as i-Size seats)
Children under 3 must use a suitable baby car seat.
Check your car manufacturer manual for information about airbags and child seats in your vehicle
Rear-facing baby seats must not be used in a seat protected by a front air-bag, unless the air-bag has been deactivated.
Ensure that the car seat or restraint is a good fit for your child and your car
Make sure you know how to correctly fit the seat into yours, or others, car/s.
It’s important to use the correct restraint for the size and age of your child. Whether it’s rear facing baby seat, a forward facing child seat, a booster seat or cushion; ensure that it’s the safest option for your particular child.
PENALTIES FOR NOT WEARING A SEATBELT IN A CAR
So we told you above who would be responsible if a driver or passenger is caught without a seatbelt on. It’s mainly down to the driver for all passengers under 14, and for passengers over that age, it’s their responsibility.
For the driver – If you get caught not wearing a seatbelt yourself, or if you are carrying a child under 14 years of age with no correct car restraint / belt you can get fined up to £500, and take 3 penalty points.
For the passengers – if you are caught in a vehicle without wearing a seatbelt you can be fined up to £500, and you’ll get 2 penalty points on your license too.
Ultimately, regardless of the law, we believe that everyone should always wear a seatbelt, if physically possible. Seatbelts are designed to keep you from flying through the windscreen or being thrown out of or around the car, with an extreme force. Air bags are also much more effective when the driver and passengers are wearing their seat belts as they keep you in the correct position in order for the airbag to properly protect you. They really are a matter of live or death, with studies showing that wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of death by 45%, and cuts the risk of serious injury by 50%. With those sorts of figures, we are definitely saying, ‘Keep Safe and Belt Up!