Seat belt law - how to keep safe and avoid fines | RAC Drive (2022)

It’s been a legal requirement for drivers and passengers to wear seat belts since 1983, however, seat belt law itself, isn't that simple.

We all know the reasoning behind the legislation–the safety implications for not wearing one is a no brainer –but do you know what happens if you’re caught driving without a seat belt? Or who's responsibility it is if your passenger refuses to use theirs? And are there any exemptions from the law?

Our comprehensive guide answers your questions, offeringall you need to know about seat belt legislation.

What is the seat belt law?

Essentially, if your vehicle has seat belts you legally have to wear them.

It's unlikey your vehicle will not have seat belts unless it's a very old classic as it’s been a legal requirement in the UK for seat belt anchorage points to be fitted in the front of all new cars since 1965, and for front seat belts to be fitted to all cars since 1967.

The law was also changed in ‘67, requiring all cars manufactured since ‘65 to be retro-fitted with front seat belts.

Essentially, if your vehicle has seat belts you legally have to wear them.

By 1987, all new cars sold in the UK legally had to have rear seat belts fitted too– but most manufacturers were already fitting them as standard.

The law changed in 1989, making it a legal requirement for children travelling in the back of cars to wear seat belts, followed by another rule change in 1991 which dictated adult passengers must also wear seat belts in the back of cars.

READ MORE: Car seat laws -how to keep your child safe and avoid fines

With front and rear seat belts a legal requirement for all new cars for 30 years –and legislation dictating that they must be worn since 1991 –wearing a seat belt ought to be human nature to anyone when getting into a car in the UK.

Of course, it’s not as simple as ‘everyone should wear seat belts’.

Children should be secured using appropriate child seats, and even animals need to be restrained (yes, the Highway Code says so).

Our table below shows simply how UK seat belt law applies to different drivers and passengers:

(Video) Traffic Law : Seat Belt Laws & Fines

Type of travellerFront seatRear seatResponsibility
Child under threeApproved child restraint neededApproved child restraint needed (exceptions below)Driver
Child aged 3-12 or smaller than 135cmApproved child restraint neededApproved child restraint needed (exceptions below)Driver
Child aged 12 or 13 or taller than 135cmseat belt must be worn if fittedseat belt must be worn if fittedDriver
Passengers aged 14+seat belt must be worn if fittedseat belt must be worn if fittedPassenger
Pregnant womenseat belt must be worn if fitted unless with a doctor’s noteseat belt must be worn if fitted unless with a doctor’s notePassenger
PetsAnimals must be suitably restrained to prevent injuryAnimals must be suitably restrained to prevent injuryDriver

Dogs in cars seat belt law

Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly.

"A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

Having loose animals in the car can be a distraction, and in the case of a crash they could cause serious injuries to themselves and other occupants in the vehicle if they’re propelled forwards as the car comes to a stop.

The RAC sells a dog harness which attaches to the seat belt, and a dog guard which can be used if your dog is travelling in the boot.

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How to safely wear a seat belt when pregnant

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(Video) Seat Belts Save Lives: Full-Length Safety Animation

Legally, you must wear a seat belt when you’re pregnant unless your doctor has given you a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’.

This must be kept in the vehicle and must be shown to the police if they stop you and ask why you’re not wearing a seat belt. You’ll also need to tell your car insurance company.

The safest and most comfortable way of wearing a seat belt if you’re pregnant is:

  • Position the lap belt (the bottom of the two) low on your hip bones and below your belly
  • The shoulder belt should be positioned between your breasts and to the side of your belly
  • The belt should be tight - if it’s too loose, it won’t hold you in place in a crash - and don’t be tempted to position the shoulder belt underneath your arm

NEWS:Study finds child seats can lead to breathing problems in babies

Exemptions from wearing a seat belt

There are a few genuine exemptions to wearing seat belts. These include:

  • Taxis

    If you’re a licensed taxi driver ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers, you don’t need to wear a seatbelt, legally speaking. However, we recommend you should.

    There are a number of suggestions why this is the case: one is because you’re expected to get in and out of the car regularly helping passengers, while some say it’s because wearing a seatbelt could make taxi drivers vulnerable to assault.

    Passengers, however, must legally wear a seatbelt.

  • Delivery drivers

    Goods drivers travelling no more than 50 metres between stops don’t have to use their seatbelt between deliveries.

    Be warned, though, a police officer might want proof that you’re only travelling a short distance and you could be fined if you’re travelling more than 50 metres.

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  • Medical exemptions

    If you have medical reasons for not wearing a seatbelt, you’ll need to ask your doctor for a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’.

    With solid evidence that wearing a seatbelt can save lives in a crash, you might find your doctor reluctant to give you exemption from wearing a seatbelt.

    You’ll need to make it clear why you feel you need it - and get a second opinion from another doctor if needs be.

    If you are given a certificate, keep it in your vehicle and be prepared to show it to police if you’re stopped in your car.

    When driving, it’s fairly obvious to observant police officers if you’re not belted up, so you might find yourself pulled over more regularly than you would be otherwise.

Wearing a seat belt on a minibus, bus or a coach

When travelling on a minibus, bus or coach, you must wear a seat belt if there’s one available.

Most modern minibuses and coaches (registered since October 2001) will have belts fitted throughout.

In minibuses, drivers must wear seat belts, while children can only travel in the front if a car seat or adult seat belt is fitted in the front.

The driver must ensure that children under three must use an appropriate restraint if sitting in the front, while those aged 3-12 and under 1.35 metres should use an appropriate restraint if available.

If not, they must wear a seat belt.

Older children must wear seat belts - while anyone over 14 is responsible themselves for belting up.

In the rear seats of small minibuses, passengers must wear seat belts or use an appropriate child restraint.

The driver is responsible for ensuring under-14s are suitably restrained.

In larger minibuses, under-14s are not required to wear seat belts but it is highly recommended.

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Punishments for not wearing a seat belt

Seat belt law - how to keep safe and avoid fines | RAC Drive (4)

If you’re caught travelling in a vehicle without wearing a seat belt - and none of the exemptions apply - you could be hit with an on-the-spot Fixed Penalty Notice of £100 (which will not carry any penalty points).

Remember, the driver is responsible for children aged up to 14 and you could be fined for each child passenger without a belt.

Those over 14 are responsible for their own actions - so if you’re caught not wearing a belt as a passenger, you could be hit with a £100 fine.

Not wearing a seat belt isn’t an endorsable offence, so you won’t be given penalty points on your licence if you’re caught without a belt.

This means it won’t affect your insurance at renewal time, either, as you don’t need to inform the insurance company.

If the case goes to court, the fine could increase to £500.

Want to protect yourself against any losses following an accident? Get legal expenses insurance from just £15 a year with RAC Legal Care Plus.

Did you know we offer specialist learner driver insurance? And if you're looking to borrow a car for a short-period of time, you can take our temporary car insurance from 1 hour to 30 days. It only takes 15 minutes to activate.

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What is a good excuse for not wearing a seatbelt? ›

Top 10 no seatbelt excuses
  • “I forget to buckle up sometimes.” ...
  • “I'm too big to wear a seat belt.” ...
  • “I'm not travelling very far or very fast.” ...
  • “I don't want to get stuck inside the car during a crash.” ...
  • “Seatbelts cause injuries during crashes.” ...
  • “I'm driving a bigger vehicle that will protect me in case of a crash.”
Feb 2, 2022

What will happen if the passengers of the car will not use seatbelts? ›

Being buckled up during a crash helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle; being completely ejected from a vehicle is almost always deadly. If you don't wear your seat belt, you could be thrown into a rapidly opening frontal air bag. Such force could injure or even kill you.

What is the fine for not wearing a seatbelt in the UK? ›

You must wear a seat belt if one is fitted in the seat you're using - there are only a few exceptions. You're also only allowed 1 person in each seat fitted with a seat belt. You can be fined up to £500 if you don't wear a seat belt when you're supposed to.

Who is responsible for making sure everyone is wearing a seatbelt? ›

Car drivers and front seat passengers must wear a seat belt, unless they have a medical exemption certificate. Adults travelling in the rear of a car must also use seatbelts, if they're fitted. It's the responsibility of the adult passenger (not the driver) to make sure that they are using the seatbelt.

What is the law of wearing a seatbelt? ›

8750 known as the Seat Belts Use of Act states that the driver and passengers (both rear and front passengers) of private and public vehicles are required to use and wear their seat belts every time they're inside a car with the running engine on any street, road, and highway.

How can I remember to wear my seatbelt? ›

Leave yourself a note- A written reminder on the dashboard or even a ribbon tied to the steering wheel works. Repetition– Make a habit not to release the emergency brake of your vehicle until your seat belt is buckled and others in the vehicle do the same. Make a game of buckling up- Whoever snaps in first wins.

Can a seatbelt cut you in half? ›

Fact 2: Again, not going to happen if you are adjusting your seat belt. It will only cut off your head in a serious car accident and if it isn't adjusted to fit you comfortably and correctly. So, again this isn't going to happen if you are adjusting it correctly.

Does airbag open without seatbelt? ›

According to experts, many are not aware that in some cars the airbags — the ones in front of the driver as well as the co-passenger — would open only if the seatbelt is worn. “Airbags will not activate if seatbelts are not fastened,” said Graeme McRaith, Service Operations Manager, Zawawi Trading Co.

Can you get points for no seatbelt UK? ›

As a driver you may get a fine of £500 and three penalty points for not wearing your seat belt. If you are carrying a child under 14 without the proper restraint you are liable for a fine of £500 and three penalty points.

When can I drive without seatbelt? ›

You're driving and are reversing. You're supervising a learner driver who is reversing. You're in an emergency services vehicle (police, fire and rescue) You're a passenger in a trade vehicle looking into a fault, like a neighbourhood power outage.

Are taxi drivers exempt from wearing seatbelts? ›

This rule applies to all licensed taxi drivers plying for hire, or those carrying passengers. The same rule is not for taxi passengers and they always have to wear seatbelts.

Why do you have to wear a seatbelt on a coach but not a bus? ›

Why don't you need seat belts in buses? According to transportation officials, the most important feature of the bus that nullifies the need to have seat belts installed is compartmentalization. Seats are installed equidistant with respect to each other, segregating passengers in small 'compartments' of sorts.

Are drivers responsible for passengers buckling up? ›

Drivers are responsible for making sure that passengers fasten their seat belts. If passengers under 16 years of age don't buckle up, it is the driver who faces a fine and demerit points.

Why are there no seatbelts on buses UK? ›

Answer:They don't have to wear a seatbelt, because they are travelling less than 500m per stop, which means they don't have to wear one.

Do taxi drivers have to wear seat belts in NY? ›

After years of wending its way to Albany, a new traffic law requiring cab drivers and other commercial drivers to wear seat belts was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on October 24.

What is the law in regard to driver & passenger restraints in NSW? ›

Drivers must wear a seatbelt while driving. Drivers must not have any part of their body outside the vehicle. Drivers are also responsible for making sure: each passenger is sitting in their own seat that's fitted with a seatbelt (they must not share the seat or seatbelt with another passenger)

How will the New York State seat belt law save people's lives and prevent permanent injuries? ›

A seat belt absorbs the force of impact in a traffic crash and reduces your risk of being killed or injured. It holds you securely to help prevent you from striking hard objects inside the vehicle while being tossed around.

What are most collisions caused by? ›

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bad judgment or driver errors cause most traffic accidents. Examples include tailgating, failure to yield, failure to obey traffic signs or signals, and other conscious or unconscious errors in judgment that result in a motor vehicle accident.


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