• July 27, 2022

  • Abby Nuttall

  • Driver Articles

An essential part of driver and passenger safety is the seatbelts they wear, which is why we’ve put together this article with everything you should know about them.

Why Are Seatbelts Important?

Seatbelts are designed to keep you as safe as possible and minimise the risk and severity of injuries if you are involved in an accident while in a moving vehicle.  

Over the years the design has evolved from a lap belt to a three point belt that is specifically designed to keep you securely positioned if the vehicle is involved in an accident to reduce injuries.

What to Do If Your Car Doesn’t Have Seatbelts?

Wearing your seatbelt became mandatory for all passengers under UK law in 1991 however it was nearly twenty years earlier in 1965 that car manufacturers were legally required to manufacture all vehicles with seatbelts.

For cars that were made before 1965 then seatbelts are not mandatory and you have no legal obligation to have them retroactively fitted. There are a few restrictions on who you can carry in the vehicle without seatbelts, you can’t have any child under three in the car as it would be too unsafe. Additionally, any children three years old or older will need to be seated in the back of the vehicle.

We advise where possible to have seatbelts added to your classic car or travel at low speeds and avoid carrying children at all to reduce the risk of harm if you are involved in an accident.

If your car was produced after 1965 and does not have seatbelts then this is illegal and you will need to have them reinstalled in order for the car to be roadworthy.

Who Needs to Wear a Seatbelt?

Since 1983 it has been a legal requirement for the driver and front seat passenger to wear their seatbelt, and since 1991 for all rear passengers to as well. So, unless exempt every one who is in a moving vehicle must wear a seatbelt.

For some passengers they might not wear the seatbelt directly, but it may used to secure a car seat that uses a harness to secure them safely. For example, a child’s car seat will be fixed to the seat using the seatbelt or ISOFIX fittings and that seat has its own restraints to secure the child safely and protect them should there be an accident.

If you are travelling with an animal then they are not legally required to wear a seatbelt, however they should be restrained when the vehicle is moving to prevent them from being a distraction to the driver and minimise the risk of hurt if there is an accident. A pet carrier, harness or secure netting for across the rear sears to secure them in the cargo area are all suitable restraints depending on the size of your pet.

How to Wear Your Seatbelt

Seatbelts are designed for safety, and this is based on them being worn correctly.

The correct positioning of the seatbelt is to have the bottom of the belt cross your hips from one side to the other, careful that no clothing is making it sit further away from your body than it should. Then the shoulder belt should sit between the neck and shoulder so that it crosses over your chest to the buckle. Some cars will have an adjustable height for the seatbelt, usually in the front seats, so you can make it higher or lower as needed depending on your height. The seatbelt should fit snugly but not be painfully tight, if it is there may be a problem with the belt.

Whose Seatbelt is the Driver Responsible for?

As the driver of a vehicle, it is your responsibility to ensure that all of your passengers are wearing appropriate seatbelts or safely seated in car seats before you drive and that they remain safely restrained throughout the journey.

Legally, for any passenger over the age of 14 years old it is the individual passenger’s responsibility to use their seatbelt and you will not be held responsible in the eyes of the law if you are stopped and they are not using their seatbelt. However, we still recommend making sure that all passengers are wearing their seatbelts for your own peace of mind and to set a good example to your younger passengers.

For any children aged under 14 years old the driver is legally responsible for them wearing a seatbelt or are in the appropriate car seat for their age and weight. It does not matter if they are not your child, as the driver you are the one who will be fined and potentially charged for them not being safely secured if you are stopped by the police. The fine is £500 per person, including yourself.

Seatbelt Exemptions

There are a few exemptions to wearing a seatbelt and these include:

  • When you are reversing or supervising a learner driver who is reversing
  • In a vehicle being used by the police or fire and rescue services
  • As a passenger in a trade vehicle when you’re investigating a fault
  • Driving a goods vehicle while travelling less than 50 metres between delivery stops
  • As a licenced taxi driver plying for hire or carrying passengers
  • If you have a medical exemption, which you must carry your certificate of exemption when travelling

Some people may be given a medical exemption while pregnant or if they have a disability.

Car Seats and Seatbelts

We’ve already mentioned that as the driver you’re responsible for any child under 14 years old being in an appropriate car seat or wearing their seatbelt regardless of whether you are responsible for them outside of the vehicle. One thing to note is that a child cannot travel on someone’s lap with them both secured by a single seatbelt. Seatbelts should only be used for one person and again as the driver it will be your responsibility to ensure this is the case in your vehicle.

Even if you don’t have your own children, we think it’s important that you understand the rules on child seats in case you ever do have a child in your vehicle.

If a child is over 12 years old or 135 cm tall then they are not legally required to use a car seat and can simply sit in the seat and use the seatbelt as an adult would.

If they are younger and shorter than this they will be required to use a car seat. The type of the car seat they need will be based on their weight and there are three types that they may use depending on their weight: rear-facing car seats, front-facing car seats and booster seats.

Rear-facing car seats are secured into the vehicle with the child facing the rear of the car and are designed for babies and young toddlers. There are two weight categories that they will fall into the first is suitable for babies from birth to 13 kg and the second will be suitable for children between 9 kg and 18 kg.

Front-facing car seats will be a similar style to rear-facing ones but are designed so that the child faces the front of the vehicle as a passenger in the seat would. These are suitable for children between 9 kg and 18 kg.

Booster seats are suitable for children between `15 and 25 kg and are available with a back support for smaller children or without if this is not needed. These seats are designed to lift the child to an appropriate height so that they can use the regular seatbelt in the seat.

There are a couple of exemptions to children needing to be in a car seat which include for short distance emergency journeys when the child is over three years old or when they are travelling in a taxi, minibus or coach.

Seatbelt Condition Laws

As the owner, or keeper of a company-provided vehicle or lease vehicle, it is your responsibility to ensure that the vehicle meets legal standards including the seatbelt condition requirements.

Your vehicle will have its seatbelts tested as part of the MOT process so if your car is three years or older then it will be checked annually.

You can do a visual check of the seatbelt yourself by checking the seatbelt is not frayed or damaged anywhere, pulling it out fully to check the entire length. Additionally, you can do a quick test to make sure it self-secures correctly by braking suddenly or giving it a hard tug to make sure the locking mechanism engages.


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