Despite seatbelt-wearing rates of 98.6 per cent for British car drivers, 27 per cent of UK car occupant fatalities in 2017 were not wearing a seatbelt, according to a new report from PACTS.

The report - Seat Belts: The Forgotten Road Safety Priority - explained there were 212 deaths and 1,000 seriously injured people caused by motorists not wearing a seatbelt in 2017.

What is the law in the UK about wearing seatbelts?

Since 1983, wearing a seatbelt in the front seats of vehicles has been a legal requirement in the UK and, by 1991, was a requirement in all seating positions. This resulted in a significant rise in seatbelt-wearing rates; with 96.6 per cent of front-seat passengers, 97 per cent of children in rear seats and 78.9 per of adults in rear seats reported to be wearing a seatbelt in 2017.

Unlike other motoring offences, not wearing a seatbelt does not carry penalty points in England, Scotland and Wales. It is the only non-endorsable offence with a fine set equivalent to that of an endorsable road traffic offence. To increase the number of people wearing seatbelts, PACTS recommends that not wearing a seatbelt should result in the imposition of three penalty points in addition to the current fine of £100. They believe this would be more of an incentive to wear a seatbelt.

Young males are most likely not to wear seatbelts

Not wearing a seatbelt is more prevalent amongst men and young people according to data from Stats19. Men’s seatbelt-wearing rate was 0.2 per cent lower than female drivers in 2017, at 98.5 per cent and 98.7 per cent respectively. Between 2013-2017, more than twice as many car occupant fatalities while unbelted were male than female; 15 per cent and 7.2 per cent respectively.

Young drivers aged 17-29 had the lowest seatbelt-wearing rate of 97.2 per cent, compared with 98.7 per cent for drivers between the ages of 30 and 59, and 99.3 per cent for those over 60. Fatality statistics also highlight that those aged 16-25 had the highest number of deaths while not wearing a seatbelt, with 106 men and 32 women. From 16 years old onwards, there were significantly more men dying than women while not wearing a seatbelt between 2013-2017.

The report also revealed those who live in the UK’s most deprived areas, that travel in passenger seats, and drive older cars are more likely to be unbelted.

Recent figures found that wearing a seatbelt reduces fatal and non-fatal injuries by 60 per cent for front-seat occupiers and 44 per cent for rear-seat passengers. Additionally, seatbelts used by those in the back of the car halves the fatality risk for those belted in the front seats compared with when those in the rear are unbelted.

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