Seat belt safety

  • New report by Direct Line Group and The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) calls for the introduction of three penalty points for not wearing a seat belt
  • Time for new road safety regulation - 72 per cent of the British public believe penalty points should be mandatory for those caught not wearing a seat belt
    More than one in four (27 per cent) of those who die in road collisions are not wearing seat belts 
  • Over 1,200 people killed or seriously injured in road collisions are not wearing seat belts

Over the past thirty years or so, road safety in Great Britain has improved immeasurably. As a result, most of us travel each day without injury or incident and the UK has one of the lowest rates of road casualties in the world.

And yet, each year, road casualties are officially estimated to amount to £35 billion in social and economic costs. This is the measure of the human suffering, lost production, and burden to the health and emergency services that results from those rare but catastrophic events. As well as the human costs, this adds to the insurance premium of every motorist in the UK.

Anything that can reduce this toll benefits us all. The simple seat belt has proved to be one of the most effective road safety devices. It may not prevent collisions, but it can and does prevent death and serious injury.

We know that the vast majority of drivers and passengers wear a seat belt. It therefore came as a shock to find that so many people – over 200 each year – die in cars while not wearing a seat belt. A further 1,000 are seriously injured. And yet unlike other motor offences, contravening the seat belt law does not carry penalty points in England, Scotland and Wales.

Direct Line Group and The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) have launched a report calling for the introduction of harsher penalties for those not found to be wearing a seat belt.

 

New research from Direct Line Car Insurance1 also reveals the British public overwhelmingly support the introduction of penalty points for those found not to be wearing a seatbelt when driving, with 72 per cent backing a change to the law.

The clear dangers of not wearing a seat belt are highlighted, as more than a quarter (27 per cent) of those who died in cars on the roads in 20174 were not wearing a seat belt. This compares to 22 per cent in 2014. Of the 787 people killed on the road in cars in 2017, over 200 were not wearing a seat belt, which presents a worrying picture when combined with over 1,000 individuals seriously injured in the same year for the same reason.

Recommendations set out by Direct Line Group and The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety include introducing three penalty points for not wearing a seat belt, greater enforcement of the seat belt law through targeted, intelligence-led measures and increasing public perception of enforcement as evidence shows that this has a significant impact on seat belt wearing.

Gus Park, Managing Director of Motor Insurance at Direct Line Group, said: “Thirty six years ago mandatory seat belt wearing was introduced and has proved to be one of the most effective road safety measures in the history of motoring. It may not prevent collisions, but it can and does prevent death and serious injury.

We know that the vast majority of drivers and passengers wear a seat belt, however, the failure of a minority to consistently wear a seat belt is associated with a disproportionately high number of serious injuries and deaths with over 1,200 casualties in 2017.

“This report shines a spotlight on an area that seems to have been recently overlooked. It makes specific and practical recommendations with three key areas of focus: better enforcement, better education and better data collection with the intention of increasing seat belt wearing and ultimately reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads.”

David Davies, Executive Director, PACTS, said: “It has been a shock to find that more than one in four people killed in a car were not wearing a seat belt. In the event of a collision, wearing a seat belt is the single most effective thing that a driver or passenger can do to avoid serious injury.

“Our report shows the road safety community has taken its eye off the ball. It points to ways to increase wearing among the minority who forget or choose not to do so. In particular, PACTS recommends making it an endorsable offence, with three penalty points. This would have no impact on most drivers or passengers but could substantially reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured each year.”