The law on wearing a seatbelt

If you run as fast as you can, into a wall, it’s gonna hurt. It’s the same when the front of your car hits something at just 15mph.

The car stops in the first tenth of a second, but you keep moving forward at the same rate the car had been moving – until something stops you. Like the steering wheel, dashboard or windscreen. This is at 15mph; crank that up to 30mph and the impact is four times as hard; it’s the same impact you'd feel if you fell three stories. Ouch.

This is why it’s so important to belt up before you set off; fail to do so and you could end up disabled for the rest of your life – or worse. 

You’re twice as likely to die in a crash if you’re not wearing a seat belt

Killer facts 

  • You’re twice as likely to die in a crash if you’re not wearing a seat belt.

  • Those aged 17-34 are the least likely to bother belting up – but the most likely to crash.

The law

Get caught driving while not wearing a belt and your licence stays clean – but you’ll be fined. As the driver, you’re responsible for wearing your own belt plus ensuring your passengers have theirs on too. That’s unless they’re over 14 – then they’re responsible for themselves. You can be fined up to 500 quid, although a £30 fixed penalty fine is more usual. There are a few exemptions, but the only one likely to apply is if you’re reversing your car. For all the gen, check out

Key point

If you think you don’t need to wear a seatbelt because your car has airbags, think again. The proper term for an airbag is a Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) – supplementary meaning ‘in addition to’. That’s in addition to the seatbelt!

Taking a back seat

Most people will put on their seat belt when travelling in the front seats, but around 24% admit they sometimes don’t bother when travelling in the back. You’re risking serious injury by not doing so – even when sitting in the rear seats. For good reasons, it’s a legal requirement to wear a seat belt, if one is fitted, when travelling in either the front or the back of a car.

Do it right

For a seat belt to work properly, it needs to be correctly adjusted. Here’s how… 

  • Make sure it’s not twisted.

  • Position it so the lap belt sits as low as possible over your hips and doesn’t ride up over your stomach; heavy clothing can push the belt up too high.

  • The shoulder belt should lie across your chest – over your shoulder away from your neck. If the car has a seat belt with an adjustable top mounting point, adjust it so the belt sits comfortably across your chest.

  • Don’t put the shoulder belt under your arm. In a crash, this could lead to very serious injury.

  • Make sure there’s no slack in the belt. It can only work properly if it’s snug across your body at the start of an accident. Rear lap belts (and other non-automatic belts) should be adjusted to fit close and low over your hips.

  • Never put an adult seat belt around two people; it could lead to serious injuries, with the two people crushed together in a crash.

  • It’s okay to tilt your seat slightly backwards but don’t recline it too far. In a crash, it’s possible for the driver or passenger to slide forward and under the belt, if the seat leans too far back.

  • Airbags are designed to be used with seat belts. They’re not substitutes.