Seat belt law: when you do and don't need one and the fines for breaking the rules

New data has revealed that almost a third of people killed in car crashes in the UK in 2018 weren't wearing a seat belt.

The figures obtained from police forensic investigators also showed that there has been a six per cent increase in the number of "unbelted" fatalities in two years.

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Separate research by road safety charity Brake last year found almost half of young drivers had been in a car with someone not wearing a belt in the previous 12 months.

Wearing a seat belt has been compulsory in the UK for drivers and front seat passengers since 1983 and for rear seat passengers since 1991 (1989 for under-14s). Failing to obey the law carries a £100 fine - or up to £500 if you’re taken to court. There are also moves to add penalty points to the punishment in England, Scotland and Wales. The offence already carries a three-point endorsement in Northern Ireland.

Although the regulations state that you must wear a seat belt, there are certain exceptions to the rules so here we break down exactly what the law says.

When you must wear a seat belt

You must wear a seat belt in cars, vans and other goods vehicles if one is fitted. Adults, and children aged 14 years and over, must use a seat belt, where fitted, when seated in minibuses, buses and coaches.

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There are, however, a few exemptions. You don’t need to wear a seat belt if you’re:

a driver who is reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversingin a vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue servicesa passenger in a trade vehicle and you’re investigating a faultdriving a goods vehicle on deliveries that is travelling no more than 50 metres between stopsa licensed taxi driver who is ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengersYou have a medical exemption from your doctor

You also don’t need to wear one if your vehicle did not originally come with seat belts, for example if it is a classic car built before 1965. In this instance you mustn’t carry children under the age of three and over-threes must sit in the back seats.


Children under three must be seated in a suitable car seat with restraints. The only exception is when travelling in a taxi, when they do not need to be restrained.

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Children aged 3-12 (or up to 1.35m tall) must use a suitable child restraint, such as a car seat with harness or booster seat. They may use an adult belt without a child seat in a taxi or minicab where no child restraint is available or for reasons of unexpected necessity over a short distance, or if two occupied restraints prevent fitment of a third.

Children aged 12 and up (or more than 1.35m tall) must wear a seat belt.

Who is responsible?

Adults and children over the age of 14 are responsible for ensuring they wear a seat belt. For children under 14, the driver is responsible.

This article first appeared on The Scotsman