We all use a seatbelt regularly, whether it be in a car, on a coach, or various other modes of transports. But what are the actual laws and regulations regarding using seatbelts? And what about child car seats? We’ve prepared a quick summary of the laws around seatbelts and car seats for your convenience.

What is the Law?

It has been the law since 1991 that every person travelling in a motor vehicle must wear a seatbelt when there is one fitted. Failing to do so can see drivers receiving fixed penalty notices for the offence. For the driver and passengers aged 12 or higher, the law is clear and simple. You must wear your seatbelt at all times whilst in the vehicle. For children under the age of 12, there’s a bit more to think about.

According to the Highway Code, children are required to use either a car seat or a booster seat until they reach 12 years of age or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first. The seat they are in must be appropriate for the height and weight of the child according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Children must be in a rear-facing car seat until the age of 15 months. Once over the age of 15 months, your child can use a forward-facing car seat. If you are fitting a rear-facing car seat into your front passenger seat, remember to deactivate any front airbags for that seat, as it can be dangerous to the child if deployed.

Many people don’t realise that they need to have suitable restraints for animals when in vehicles, but according to the Highway Code, you must make sure any animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract the driver, or injure themselves or anyone else in the event of a sudden stop. There’s no hard and fast rule on exactly what you should use to restrain an animal when in the car, but generally a seatbelt harness, carrier or cage should be used to keep our furry friends safe.

There are a few exemptions to wearing a seatbelt to be aware of. These include:

If you are a licenced taxi driver plying for hire or carrying passengers, you do not need to wear a seatbelt. However, we would certainly recommend you do for your safety.

Delivery drivers travelling no more than 50 metres between stops do not need to use their seatbelts between deliveries. However, we would recommend caution, as a police officer can request proof that you’re only travelling a short distance between deliveries, and if they find you are travelling further than 50 metres, you can be given a fixed penalty notice.

If you have medical reasons for not wearing a seatbelt, your doctor may give you a Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt wearing. If you are exempt, we recommend you carry it with you whenever you are in a vehicle, as you may be stopped by police officers who see you not wearing your seatbelt, and you will need to be prepared to present it when requested.

Who is responsible if someone is not wearing a seatbelt?

As the driver, it is your responsibility to ensure that yourself, any children under the age of 14, and any animals in the vehicle are suitably seat-belted or restrained as according to the law. Anyone in the car over the age of 14 is judged to be responsible for their own actions, and thus are responsible for making sure their seat belts are on, and will be charged themselves if caught not wearing one.

What are the penalties?

If you are seen by the police driving a vehicle without wearing your seatbelt (without a valid exemption), you can be served an on-the-spot fixed penalty notice of £100, which must be paid within 28 days. This will also apply to any under-14s or animals in the car who are not wearing seat belts or otherwise restrained correctly. It is not an endorsable offence, so you would not receive any penalty points on your licence. However, if the police are of the opinion that you are not in proper control of your vehicle, for instance, if you have taken your hands off the wheel to put your seatbelt on after starting driving, they could charge you with an additional offence, such as Driving Without Due Care and Attention, which could carry penalty points.

If you fail to pay a fixed penalty notice within 28 days, then the matter will progress to the Magistrates’ Court, and you may be asked to attend for a court hearing. If you are sentenced at the Magistrates’ Court for failing to wear a seatbelt, you will receive a fine of up to £500 per offence.

Written by Nathan Blake