RULES ON SEAT BELTS: Under the law, if the vehicle seat you are sitting in has a seat belt fitted you must wear it.
Likewise, any vehicle seat that has a seat belt fitted only allows one (1) person to wear that safety belt.
Note: A few exceptions apply to the rule. But, failing to wear a seat belt when you should can result in a fine up to £500 in the United Kingdom.
Seat Belt Law UK for Children
Any time you drive a vehicle you must ensure that all children traveling in the same vehicle are:
- Seated in the correct child car seat for their height or their weight. This rules applies to whichever comes first between reaching their 12th birthday or being 135 centimetres tall.
- Wearing a seat belt if the child is over 135cm tall and 12 or 13 years old (or younger).
Note: The driver can get a seat belt fine up to £500 if a child under 14 is not wearing a seat belt or seated in the correct child car seat.
Situations when You Do Not have to Wear a Seat Belt
There are certain instances where wearing a seat belt in a vehicle is not required, such as if you are:
- The driver while reversing the vehicle. The same seat belt exemption applies if you are supervising a learner driver while they are reversing.
- Inside a vehicle used by police or fire and rescue services.
- Investigating a mechanical fault as a passenger in a trade vehicle.
- Driving a goods vehicle while making deliveries if it travels no more than 50 metres between the stops.
- A licensed taxi driver while ‘plying for hire’ or while carrying passengers. Old Hackney Carriage rules introduced this seat belt exemption for passenger safety.
Seat Belt Law Medical Exemption
There are certain medical exemptions from wearing a seat belt. But, your doctor must exempt you from the seat belt laws in the United Kingdom.
A doctor would issue a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’. If this happens you must:
- Keep the certificate in your vehicle while driving.
- Show the seat belt exemption certificate if the police stop you while driving.
Note: You will need to inform the vehicle insurer if you have a medical reason for not wearing a seatbelt. Your doctor can provide further information.
Pregnancy and Wearing a Seat Belt
In most cases, you must wear a seat belt even while you are pregnant. There may be an exemption if your doctor rules that you do not need to wear one based on medical reasons.
Disabled People Wearing Seat Belts
As a rule, you must wear a seat belt even if you are a passenger or a driver with a disability. There may be an exemption if your doctor rules that you do not need to wear one based on medical reasons. In some cases, you may also need to adapt the vehicle.
Seat Belts: The Law in the United Kingdom
Front seat belt wearing rules for drivers and passengers first came into force in 1983. This new ruling applied to children as well as adults. Wearing rear seat belts became compulsory for children under 14 in 1989. The UK seat belt law changed again in 1991. This is the year that it became compulsory for adults to wear a seat belt in the back of a car.
Reports suggest that the vehicular safety rules of seatbelt wearing saves more than 2,000 lives each year. Most people can see the sense in wearing a safety belt while seated at the front of a vehicle. But, it can also be as dangerous not to wear a seat belt in the back as well.
An Example: Being unrestrained in the back of a car during a crash at 30mph means you will hit the front seat. That also means you could collide with anyone sitting in it. The force of such a collision would be between 30 and 60 times that of your own body weight. The result could be a serious injury or a fatality to yourself and anyone sitting in front of you.
If a Vehicle is Not Fitted with Seat Belts
Some older vehicles do not have seat belts fitted (e.g. classic or vintage cars). You cannot carry any children under 3 years old in this type of vehicle where there are no seat belts. Child passengers over 3 years old must sit in the back seats during a journey.
Note: These seat belt laws only apply if the vehicle was ‘originally’ made without fitted seat belts.