Seat belt law UK: the rules, fines and exceptions explained

Advertisement

The current seat belt law, the exceptions, rules for children and whether you can get penalty points for breaking the law

A quarter of all car occupants killed on British roads were not wearing their seat belts latest numbers.

Advertisement

Government data on road safety has shown that most people obey the seat belt law, but those who don’t are disproportionately likely to die in a collision.

Figures for 2020 show that almost 95% of car occupants wore seat belts while driving, but 23% of all those killed in accidents were unbelted.

Advertisement

The numbers have prompted calls for a renewed public awareness campaign and questions about whether existing laws are strict enough.

In some limited situations, delivery drivers are exempt from wearing seat belts

The RAC’s Simon Williams said: “As seat belts are probably the greatest life-saving device ever introduced in vehicles…[these] new figures raise the question of whether existing laws are sufficiently dissuasive.”

Advertisement

Such a change could even result in drivers being banned from driving under totting rules, changing the current rules where the only penalty is a fine.

Since when are seat belts compulsory in the UK?

Advertisement

Seat belts have been compulsory in the UK for drivers and front passengers since 1983 and for rear seat passengers since 1991 (1989 for under 14s).

Although the regulations dictate that you must wear a seat belt, there are certain exceptions to the rules, so here we break down exactly what the law says about when you do and don’t have to buckle up.

Advertisement

When to wear a seat belt

You must wear a seat belt in cars, vans and other commercial vehicles where one is available. Adults and children over the age of 14 are required to wear seat belts on minibuses, buses and coaches where fitted.

Advertisement

When you don’t need to wear a seat belt

However, there are some exceptions. You do not need to wear a seat belt if you:

Advertisement
  • a driver reversing or supervising a learner driver reversing
  • in a vehicle used by police, fire and rescue services
  • a passenger in a commercial vehicle and you’re investigating a bug
  • Driving a delivery truck that travels no more than 50 meters between stops
  • a licensed taxi driver who “operates for hire” or transports passengers
  • You have a medical exemption from your doctor

You also do not need to wear one if your vehicle was not originally equipped with seat belts, for example if it is a classic car built before 1965. In this case, you are not allowed to have children under the age of three and over threes must sit in the back seats.

Seat belt law for children

Advertisement

Children under the age of three must be seated in an appropriate car seat with a restraint system. The only exception is for taxi rides when they don’t need to buckle up.

Children aged 3 to 12 years (or up to 1.35 m tall) must use an appropriate child restraint system, e.g. B. a car seat with a belt or a booster seat. You may use an adult seat belt without a child seat in a taxi or minicab when a child restraint system is not available or over a short distance due to reasons of unexpected necessity, or when two occupied restraint systems prevent the installation of a third.

Advertisement

Children 12 years and older (or taller than 1.35 m) must wear a seat belt.

There are special seat belt rules and exceptions for children

Who is responsible?

Advertisement

Adults and children over the age of 14 are responsible for wearing a seat belt. The driver is responsible for children under the age of 14.

What is the penalty for not wearing a seat belt?

Advertisement

Currently the fine for not wearing a seat belt is £100, or up to £500 if you are brought to trial.

Advertisement