Seat Belts: Law

A picture of a seatbelt

Also available to download: Seat Belts: Law (PDF 48kb)

This fact sheet about seat belts explains the legislation for:

There is also an At-A-Glance Table of legislation in cars.

Cars:

Adults

In the Front Seat

Drivers and front seat passengers aged 14 years or over in cars must wear a seat belt, unless they have a medical exemption certificate.

In the Rear Seats

Passengers aged 14 years or over in the rear of a car must also use seat belts, if they are fitted. It is the responsibility of the adult passenger (not the driver) to ensure that they are using the seat belt.

Exemptions

Anyone with a Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing issued by a doctor for medical reasons is exempt from having to wear a seat belt, but they must keep the certificate in the vehicle and show it to the police if stopped. They should also inform their insurer.

Taxis

Licensed taxi drivers are exempt from wearing a seat belt when 'plying for trade' or carrying passengers.

Passengers using taxis and private hire vehicles MUST wear a seat belt.

Delivery Drivers

Van drivers and passengers must wear a seat belt. However, goods vehicle drivers who are travelling 50m or less between deliveries or collections do not need to wear a seat belt.

Children

Under 3 years old

In the Front Seat

The child MUST use the correct child restraint.

It is illegal to carry a child in a rear-facing child seat in the front if there is an active front passenger airbag. In this case the airbag must be deactivated or the rear-facing child seat must be placed in the rear.

In the Rear Seat

The child MUST use the correct child restraint.

It is the driver's legal responsibility to ensure that the child is correctly restrained within the law. Children under 3 years old cannot be carried in a car that does not have seat belts fitted.

The only exception is that a child under 3 years may travel unrestrained in the rear of a licensed taxi or licensed private hire car if a child restraint or seat belt is not available.

Children aged 3 to 11 years and under 135cm tall

In the Front Seat

The child MUST use the correct child restraint.

In the Rear Seat

The child MUST use the correct restraint, where seat belts are fitted.

There are four exceptions where a child may travel in a seat belt rather than a child seat, if a child seat is not available. These are if the child is travelling:

  1. In the rear seats of a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle
  2. A short distance and the journey is necessary and unexpected
  3. Two occupied child restraints in the rear prevent a third one being fitted
  4. The vehicle is not fitted with seat belts (only applies to vehicles that were originally manufactured without seat belts).

In addition, children aged 3 years or over may travel unrestrained in the rear seat of a car that does not have seat belts fitted, provided it was originally manufactured without seat belts.

However, children under 3 years must be in a child car seat. Therefore, they cannot travel in a vehicle that does not have seat belts.

It is the driver's legal responsibility to ensure that the child is correctly restrained.

Children aged 12 or 13 years, or younger children 135 cm or more in height

In the Front Seat

The adult seat belt MUST be worn if available.

In the rears seats

The adult seat belt MUST be worn if available.

It is the driver's legal responsibility to ensure that the child is correctly restrained

Minibuses and Coaches:

Minibuses and Coaches Registered On or After 1 October 2001

All minibuses and coaches registered on or after 1 October 2001 (whether they carry child or adult passengers) must have forward-facing or rearward-facing seat belts.

Minibuses and Coaches Registered Before 1 October 2001

When the main purpose of the trip is to transport three or more children, minibuses and coaches registered before 1 October 2001 must have a forward facing seat for each child, fitted with either a three-point seat belt or a lap belt.

Minibuses - Front Seats

Drivers must wear a seat belt.

All children must travel in rear seats (any seat behind the driver) if a child car seat or an adult seat belt is not fitted in the front. The driver is responsible for ensuring that:

  • Children under three years of age use an appropriate child restraint (if one is not fitted, they must travel in the rear
  • Children aged from three years up to their 12th birthday, and under 1.35 metres (approximately 4'5") tall use an appropriate child restraint if available, or if not available, wear the seat belt
  • Children aged 12 and 13 years (and younger children who are 1.35 metres or taller) use the seat belt.

Passengers aged 14 years or more travelling in the front seats, or any exposed seat, must wear a seat belt and are personally responsible for doing so.

Passengers sitting in the front seats, and any exposed seat, MUST use the seat belts that are provided. If

Rear Seats in Small Minibuses

Passengers sitting in the rear of minibuses that have an unladen weight of 2,540 kg or less must wear seat belts or use an appropriate child restraint. It is the driver's responsibility to ensure that:

  • Children under three years of age use an appropriate child restraint
  • Children aged from three years up to their 12th birthday, and under 1.35 metres (approximately 4'5") tall, use an appropriate child restraint if available, or if not available, wear the seat belt
  • Children aged 12 and 13 years (and younger children who are 1.35 metres or taller) use the seat belt.

Passengers 14 years or over must wear seat belts and are legally responsible for doing so.

Rear Seats in Larger Minibuses

In minibuses over 2,540 kg unladen weight, passengers aged 14 years or over must wear seat belts and are legally responsible for doing so themselves. Passengers aged under 14 years are not yet required by law to wear seat belts.

All passengers are strongly advised to wear seat belts, or to use child restraints if available, on all journeys.

Coaches

Passengers sitting in seats that are in line with, or in front of, the driver (excluding seats on an upper deck) MUST use seat belts that are fitted.

Passengers over the age of 14 MUST wear seat belts in the rear seats of coaches. However, passengers of all ages are strongly advised to wear seat belts or the correct child seat on all journeys.

Seat Belt Law At-A-Glance

  Front seat Rear seat Who is responsible?
Driver Seat belt MUST be worn if fitted.   Driver
Children under 3 years old Correct child restraint MUST be used. Correct child restraint MUST be used

If one is not available in a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle, the child may travel unrestrained.
Driver
Child Aged 3 To 11 and Under 135cms in height (about 4.5 Feet) Correct child restraint MUST be used Correct child restraint must be used if seat belts are fitted.

If a child seat is not available, a child may travel using just the seat belt in these situations :

- In a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle
- For a short distance if the journey is unexpected and necessary
- There isn’t room to fit a third child seat
Driver
Child Aged 12 or 13 years or Younger Child 135 cms or more In height Adult seat belt must be worn if fitted Adult seat belt must be worn if fitted Driver
Passengers aged 14 years and over Must be worn if fitted Must be worn if fitted Passenger

Legal Penalties

The fixed penalty for failing to wear a seat belt as a driver or passenger is a £100 fine. If the case is taken to court, you could face a fine of up to £500.

As a driver, if you are convicted of failing to ensure that a child passenger is using an appropriate child car seat or wearing a seat belt according to the legal requirements described above, the fixed penalty is a £100 fine. If the case is taken to court, you could face a fine of up to £500.

In addition to the legal penalties, failure to wear a seat belt or failure to ensure that a child passenger uses an appropriate child car seat or wears a seat belt according to the legal requirements described above, could affect any claims against your motor insurance cover.

You could also face civil proceedings for damages, if (for example) you failed to safely carry someone else's child.

But, of course, the most serious penalty of all could be that you or a passenger loses their life!


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