A new report is calling for the introduction of harsher penalties for those caught not wearing a seat belt – suggesting the road safety community has ‘taken its eye off the ball’.
Statistics show that despite compliance rates of 98.6% among British car drivers, 27% of those killed in cars in 2017 were not wearing a seat belt – amounting to more than 200 deaths.
The report, authored by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) in partnership with Direct Line, highlights interventions which should be employed to increase seat belt wearing rates.
Among the key recommendations is the introduction of three penalty points for not wearing a seat belt – which currently happens in Northern Ireland, but not in England, Scotland or Wales.
The report also calls for greater enforcement of the seat belt law through targeted, intelligence-led measures – and for existing road safety education activities to be reviewed to see if seat belt wearing is given due prominence.
David Davies, executive director of PACTS, said: “In the event of a collision, wearing a seatbelt is the single most effective thing that a driver or passenger can do to avoid serious injury.
“Our report shows the road safety community has taken its eye off the ball. It points to ways to increase wearing among the minority who forget or choose not to do so.
“In particular, PACTS recommends making it an endorsable offence, with three penalty points. This would have no impact on most drivers or passengers but could substantially reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured each year.”
‘Overwhelming support’ from the British public
To mark the launch of the report, PACTS and Direct Line has published the findings of a survey in which 72% of respondents support the introduction of penalty points for those found not wearing a seat belt.
Of those in favour of the introduction of penalty points, 58% of respondents believe three points would be an appropriate punishment, while 30% say the penalty should be six points – the same as those caught using a hand-held mobile phone.
5% of respondents believe flouting seat belt laws should result in an automatic driving ban of at least three months.
The current fine if issued a Fixed Penalty Notice for not wearing a seat belt is £100, just 20% of the average weekly wage in the UK, with a maximum penalty of £500 (if taken to court).