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UK Seatbelt Law: All You Need to Know

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Three-point seatbelts have been around since the fifties – and we have Swedish carmaker Volvo to thank for their invention. The company was also the first to make this life-saving safety device standard-fit on the front seats of all of its vehicles in 1963, long before most manufacturers.

Fast forward almost sixty years and the seatbelt is now considered an essential safety device. We take it for granted day in, day out, but it continues to save thousands of lives around the world each year.

This might lead you to wonder what the laws are surrounding seatbelts here in the UK – are there any exemptions and occasions where you’re not required to wear one? Let’s investigate.

The law for adults

Seatbelt wearing was first made mandatory for front seat passengers in 1983 (and later for rear seat passengers in 1991), and remains so today.

In a nutshell, adults are legally required to wear a seatbelt if there’s one available to use. The only exceptions to this rule are as follows:

  • You’re reversing (or are with a learner driver who’s reversing)
  • You’re in an emergency services vehicle
  • You’re a passenger in a trade vehicle and are investigating a fault
  • You’re delivering goods and are travelling a maximum of 50 metres between stops
  • You’re a licensed taxi driver carrying passengers to their destination or looking for passengers to collect

Otherwise, unless your doctor grants you an exemption from wearing a seatbelt for medical reasons, you’ll have to wear one while you’re travelling in the front or back seat of a car, truck, minibus, bus, coach or van – provided they are supplied. Seatbelts can’t be shared by more than one person, either!

If you own a classic or vintage car that didn’t originally come with seatbelts, you won’t have to fit them – but you won’t be allowed to transport children under three years old unless you do. Children older than three can join you, but they’ll have to ride on the back seats.

The law for children

If your child (or children) are 12 years old, they’ll have to begin wearing a seatbelt. Equally, if they reach the height of 135 cm before their 12th birthday, they’ll be required to wear one.

If they’re not quite there yet, you’ll need to ensure that your children are secured in the appropriate child seat for their height and weight.

What are the penalties?

If you’re caught not wearing a seatbelt when you’re meant to – or one of your children isn’t wearing one when they should be – you could be fined up to £500 if the case is taken to court or given a £100 on-the-spot fine.

Whichever way you slice it, failing to wear a seatbelt isn’t a bright idea. Not only could it result in serious injuries or death, you could also end up with a hefty fine if you get caught.

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