New Government figures have raised questions over whether existing penalties for seatbelt offences are a sufficient enough deterrent.
The results of an observation survey, carried out in the autumn of 2021, found more than 5% of drivers (in all vehicle types) were not wearing a seatbelt.
There was a similar figure for front seat passengers – while non-compliance rates rose to more than 8% among rear seat passengers.
The RAC has described the figures as “shocking” and is calling for more to be done to encourage drivers and passengers to belt up.
Simon Williams, RAC road safety spokesperson, said: “As seatbelts are probably the single biggest life-saving device ever introduced into vehicles, it’s vital the Government, local authorities and the police continue to reinforce this message.
“Today’s new figures beg the question as to whether a nationwide communications campaign to promote seatbelt use should be rolled out and whether existing laws are a sufficient enough deterrent.”
At present, drivers and passengers caught failing to wear a seatbelt face an on-the-spot fine of £100, and, if prosecuted, can face a maximum fine of £500.
‘Levels of seatbelt wearing remain high overall’
Observations were made from video captured at a total of 60 ‘stationary’ sites (for example, at traffic light junctions) across England, Scotland and Wales.
The DfT says seatbelt wearing rates for vehicle occupants ‘remained high in 2021’, estimated as 94.8% for drivers, 94.6% for front seat passengers and 91.5% for rear seat passengers.
Among car drivers, the compliance rates were slightly greater – at 97.2% of drivers, 96.8% of front seat passengers and 92.2% of rear seat passengers.
However, with data showing that 23% of car occupant fatalities in 2020 were not wearing a seatbelt, the DfT says those who do not wear a seatbelt are ‘disproportionately likely to be killed in road collisions’.