Seat belt law UK: when and where you don’t need to wear one, plus the fines for ignoring the rules

Everything you need to know about when you need a seat belt and when you don’t, including the rules for children

Monday, 2nd August 2021, 1:07 pm
Seat belts are compulsory for drivers and passengers in most circumstances

Drivers who don’t wear their seat belts could soon be given penalty points for the offence under new legislation being considered.

It would change the current situation in Britain where a fine is the only punishment and comes amid fears that a growing number of people are flouting the rules.

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) but thousands of drivers still ignore the rule.

In some limited situations delivery drivers are exempt from having to wear a seat belt

Official data shows that nearly a quarter of people killed in car crashes in 2019 weren’t wearing a belt and research by road safety charity Brake has found almost half of young drivers had been in a car with someone not wearing a belt in the previous 12 months.

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.

There are specific seat belt rules and exceptions for children

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 reversing

- in a vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue services

- a passenger in a trade vehicle and you’re investigating a fault

- driving a goods vehicle on deliveries that is travelling no more than 50 metres between stops

- a licensed taxi driver who is ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers

- You 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

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.

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.

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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.

What is the fine for not wearing a seat belt?

Currently, the fine for not wearing a seat belt is £100 or up to £500 if you’re taken to court.

In Northern Ireland, you will also have three penalty points added to your driving licence. There are also moves to add penalty points to the punishment in England, Scotland and Wales.