We’re not sure why you might not want to wear a seat belt. After all, they are designed to save your life if you have a crash. As a consequence, the law is firm: seat belts should be worn at all times. However, there are some circumstances where you don’t have to put your seat belt on.
What does the law say about wearing a seat belt?
The law changed on 31 January 1983 making it compulsory for front-seat car occupants to wear a safety or seat belt. In 1989, it was tweaked making it obligatory for children to put belts on in the back. And it was altered once again in 1991 to make it necessary for adults to wear a seat belt in the back as well as the front.
All new cars sold in the UK from 1967 had to feature front seat belts. Twenty years later, any car sold in the UK had to have rear safety belts too.
When you might not have to wear a seat belt
- Pregnant women understandably might find wearing a seat belt uncomfortable. They don’t have to wear one if they can persuade their doctor to provide them with a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’. They should also inform their insurer if they’re planning not to wear a belt and keep their certificate in the car at all times
- Drivers who are performing manoeuvres (including passengers supervising a learner driver) can legally take their seat belt off. This includes reversing and three-point turns
- Any driver who is carrying out deliveries where they’re driving for no more than 50 metres between drops can leave their belts off. This is for drivers such as postal workers and milk deliveries
- If you’re travelling in a vehicle being used for police, fire or rescue services
- A passenger who’s travelling in a trade vehicle and investigating it for a technical fault
- And a licensed taxi driver who is either carrying passengers or ‘plying for hire’.
If your vehicle doesn’t have seat belts
Classic cars (built before 1965) might have neither seat belts nor the ability to add them as a retrofit. If that’s the case, you don’t have to wear them. But you can’t carry children under three-years old. And children who’re more than three must sit in the back.
Why are seat belts important?
Some people think that because of airbags we don’t really need seat belts. That isn’t the case. Airbags have been designed to work alongside seat belts. It’s why airbags frequently have SRS on them. The acronym stands for Supplementary Restraint System.
Seat belts are a vital safety component. They pin the occupant into their chair, preventing heavy braking firing them forwards into an unyielding dashboard, steering wheel or perhaps even through the windscreen.
Seat belts in the rear prevent passengers being flung into the back of the front seats or possibly even injuring front-seat passengers. This is why you can be fined up to £500 for not wearing a seat belt when you’re supposed to. A driver can also be fined £500 if a child under 14 isn’t in the correct seat or wearing a safety belt.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.