Seatbelts history

How belting up became law

Seatbelts HistoryBelting up is now second nature to most people when they get in a vehicle but it took many years of campaigning to get the first law on the statute books. This is a brief history of how the battle for belts was won.

A clause in the Conservative administration’s Road Traffic Bill concerning seat belts was introduced at Report stage in the Lords. The Bill was dropped on the dissolution of Parliament in 1974.

A similar clause was also included in the Labour administration’s Road Traffic Bill. After a close vote at Report stage in the Lords, the clause was removed. In the new Parliament the Government introduced it as a separate Bill but the Second Reading debate was adjourned and never completed.

A successful Lords passage. This time the Bill was adjourned at the Second Reading in the Commons. It was apparent that there was insufficient parliamentary time to discuss the Bill in the 1974-75 session.

John Gilbert, Minister of Transport, introduced a Road Traffic (Seat Belts) Bill in February 1976. Later that year, in October, the Bill was due for its final Commons stages. It was hastily withdrawn from business when an earlier vote showed that 'Only 99 MPs would be present instead of the necessary 100'.

Two more seat belts Bills were introduced in this session. Both failed. The first - in spite of a majority of 110 at its Second Reading in the Commons - because of a decision to abandon it. There were 'too few people in the House'. The second - after a successful passage through the Commons was defeated in the Lords by 55 votes to 53.

In November 1978, Labour MP William Rodgers announced his intention to introduce a seat belts Bill. It completed its First and Second Readings in the House of Commons with a majority of 'almost 100'. Labour lost the General Election in 1979 and their Bills were shelved.

Neil Carmichael introduced a Private Members Bill for seat belt compulsion during this parliamentary session. A smooth passage through the Committee stage early in 1980 led to the Bill being 'talked out' at the Report stage during September 1980.

Lord Nugent of Guildford, RoSPA’s President, introduced a Private Members Bill through the Upper House. It gained a majority of 36 at the Second Reading. Yet again the Bill failed for procedural reasons.

Lord Nugent seized his chance with an amendment to the Transport Bill which introduced seat belt wearing for a trial period of three years. RoSPA's president triumphed and the Bill became law…at last.

January 31, 1983
The law on seat belt wearing came into force.

Both Houses of Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the requirement permanently.

Regulations came into effect for mandatory rear seatbelt wearing by children.

Wearing a seat belt in the back of a car became compulsory.