Seat Belt Safety - Part II

  • New report by Direct Line and The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) reveals an apparent rise in the number of people killed not wearing a seat belt
  • Fresh insight from Police Forensic Collision Investigators highlights grave situation as almost a third (31 per cent) of those who died in vehicles in road collisions were unbelted
  • Time for new road safety penalty as number of unbelted deaths has increased with 261 people killed in 2018 
  • An overwhelming 72 per cent of the British public back the introduction of penalty points for those caught not wearing a seat belt

New research from Direct Line Car Insurance reveals almost a third (31 per cent) of those who died in vehicles on Britain’s roads in 2018 were not wearing a seat belt.

The results were obtained from specialist Police Forensic Collision Investigators (PFCIs) by using the Freedom of Information Act. The analysis presents an alarming picture suggesting the number of fatalities could be higher than official figures (26% in 2018), published by the Department for Transport. PFCI data shows an apparent increase in unbelted deaths from 25% in 2016 to 31% in 2018.

Building on research published last year which analysed Stats19 data2, Direct Line Group commissioned PACTS to conduct new research to better understand the scale of the problem. ‘Seat Belts: Time for Action’, is based on over 1000 records obtained from PFCIs and includes recent data showing that the level of death is even greater than official figures published by DfT, with 261 deaths1 in Great Britain where a seat belt was not worn in 2018 alone.

Based on Freedom of Information requests, data provided by 50 per cent of police forces reveals:

  • Almost a third (31 per cent) of those who died in vehicles on Britain’s roads in 2018 were not wearing a seat belt compared to 26% recorded by Stats19
  • Seat belt status was known in 85% of fatalities where PFCI data was available compared to around 50% in Stats19
  • As practices vary between police forces, causes of crashes and injury are not routinely published or used to prevent further deaths and serious injury
  • There isn’t a consistent way of recording PFCI results as some reports are recorded digitally and some are paper records
  • A user-friendly searchable database would be a significant development for road safety analysis

261 deaths in GB

where no seat belt was worn

PFCI data differs to Stats19 because it is recorded by highly trained police officers and police staff specialising in fatal and serious injury collision investigation who are given more time to complete their reports, meeting a higher standard of evidence which is recognised by the courts.

In contrast, Stats19 data is usually collected by response officers at the scene, by phone or online with some data based on reports by the public at a Police station, and is generally filled out before the end of a shift. And while Stats19 data records road injury collisions in Great Britain, PFCI data also includes data from Northern Ireland.

In England, Scotland and Wales the current penalty for not wearing a seat belt, if issued a Fixed Penalty Notice, is £100, just twenty per cent of the average weekly wage in the UK, with a maximum penalty of £500 (if taken to court) only just exceeding the average weekly wage. However, penalty points were introduced for seat belt non-use in Northern Ireland in 2007 where drivers can receive points for not wearing a seat belt themselves or carrying an unbelted passenger who is under the age of 14. This has contributed to an increase in wearing rates.

Gus Park, Managing Director of Motor Insurance at Direct Line, said: “Building on our previous research we have discovered an even larger number of people have died unbelted on our roads. It would appear the more we look at seat belt wearing rates, the more concerning the picture is.

“This reinforces our view there is a need to drive up seat belt wearing rates to enhance road safety and ultimately prevent unnecessary deaths. The introduction of three penalty points has made an impact in Northern Ireland. It is time to consider doing the same for England, Scotland and Wales.”

The British public overwhelmingly support the introduction of penalty points for those found not to be wearing a seat belt when driving, with more than seven in ten (72 per cent) backing a change to the law.