Seat Belts: Law

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

Drivers and adult front seat passengers in cars must wear a seat belt, unless they have a medical exemption certificate. Adults travelling 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.

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, which is protected by an active frontal airbag.

In the Rear Seat
The child MUST use the correct child restraint.

In a licensed taxi or licensed hire car, if a child restraint is not available then the child may travel unrestrained in the rear. This is the only exception in the law for children under 3.

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

Children aged 3 and above, until they reach EITHER their 12th birthday OR 135cm in height

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 three exceptions where there is not a child seat available. In each case the child MUST use the adult belt instead. They are -

  1. in a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle;
  2. if the child is travelling on a short distance for reason of unexpected necessity;
  3. if there are two occupied child restraints in the rear which prevent the fitment of a third.

In addition, a child 3 and over may travel unrestrained in the rear seat of a vehicle if seat belts are not available.

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

Children over 1.35 metres in height, or who are 12 or 13 years old

In the Front Seat
The adult seat belt MUST be worn if available.

In the Rear Seat
The adult seat belt MUST be worn if available.

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

Passengers Over 14 years old

When travelling in the front or rear seat, an adult seat belt MUST be worn if available.

Delivery Drivers:

The seat belt law for van drivers and passengers changed on the 1st March in 2005. Delivery drivers used to have an exemption from wearing a seat belt when conducting ‘local’ deliveries although prior to this amendment there was no maximum distance specified for ‘local’ deliveries.

The seat belt exemption for delivery drivers now only applies when travelling 50m or less between deliveries or collections. It is hoped that this amendment will raise the wearing rates of seat belts in vans.

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
Passengers sitting in the front seats, and any exposed seat, MUST use the seat belts that are provided. If children are sitting in these seats, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that:

  • children under 3 years of age use an appropriate child restraint
  • children aged between 3 and 11 year, and under 1.35 metres 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.

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 the seat belts that are provided. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that :

  • children under 3 years of age use an appropriate child restraint if available.
  • children aged between 3 and 11 years, under 1.35 metres tall use an appropriate child restraint if available, or if not available, wear the seat belt, if available.
  • children aged 12 and 13 years (and younger children who are 1.35 metres or taller) use the seat belt, if available.

Passengers over the age of 14 years in smaller minibuses are legally responsible for wearing a seat belt themselves.

Rear Seats in Larger Minibuses
Passengers over the age of 14 MUST wear seat belts in the rear of larger minibuses (over 2,540 kg unladen weight). However, all passengers are strongly advised to wear seat belts or the correct child seat 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.

At-A-Glance: Seat belt legislation in cars

Seat belt offences are generally punished by a £30 fine although if the case goes to court then it can result in a fine of up to £500.

  Front seat Rear seat Who is responsible?
Driver Seat belt MUST be worn if available.   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 taxi, then the child may travel unrestrained in the rear
Driver
Children aged 3 and above, until they reach EITHER their 12th birthday OR 135cm in height Correct child restraint MUST be used Where seat belts fitted, correct child restraint MUST be used

MUST use adult belt if the correct child restraint is not available in three scenarios:

- in a in a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle ;
- for a short distance for reason of unexpected necessity;
- two occupied child restraints prevent fitment of a third.

In addition, a child 3 and over may travel unrestrained in the rear seat of a vehicle if seat belts are not available
Driver
Child over 1.35 metres, or 12 to 13 years Seat belt MUST be worn if available Seat belt MUST be worn if available Driver
Adult passengers (i.e. 14 years and over) Seat belt MUST be worn if available Seat belt MUST be worn if available Passenger

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