The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is warning that despite 50 years of seat belt laws, far too many drivers and passengers are still putting themselves and others in great danger by not wearing seat belts.
The first seat belt law came into force in January 1965, which saw all new cars in the UK required to have seat belt anchorage points on the outer front seats – and paved the way for far-reaching compulsory seat belt wearing laws in the decades after.
Statistics from the Department of Transport show that of the 232 car occupants killed in 2013 (for which seatbelt data was recorded), 45 were not wearing a seat belt – a shocking 19%, or nearly one-fifth.
According to Safer Roads, 2,000 people a year are saved by wearing seat belts. They say in the event of an accident if unrestrained, you will hit the windscreen, or the front seat in the case of a rear seat passenger at a force of 30 to 60 times your own body weight.
The effectiveness of seat belts as a life saving device is without question.
Research has found that for drivers seat belts are 50% effective at preventing fatal injuries, 45% effective at preventing serious injuries and 25% effective at preventing minor injuries.
It also found for front seat passengers, seat belts are 45% effective at preventing fatal or serious injuries, and 20% effective at preventing minor injuries.
Quite apart from safety factors, drivers caught without a seat belt face on-the-spot fines of £100 and three penalty points. If prosecuted, the maximum fine is £500.
Kevin Delaney, IAM head of road safety, said: “The biggest problem is complacency. Quite simply people feel it will never happen to them. They think if they are driving locally and at a low speed they will be OK. Statistics show that many accidents not only take place at low speeds but also within a few miles of home – so people are mistaken if they think that makes them safer.”