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Road safety milestone reached after 30 years of mandatory seatbelt wearing

Posted in: Car Accidents Road Traffic Accidents 

A road safety measure that is thought to be responsible for saving thousands of lives on Britain’s roads recently reached a major milestone. On 31st January 2013 the law requiring drivers and front seat passengers to wear seatbelts celebrated its 30th anniversary.


The law making it compulsory to wear seatbelts in the front of the car came about after the then President of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), Lord Nugent, succeeded in his attempt to introduce the legislation into the House of Lords. It took thirteenth tries before politicians were persuaded that road safety should trump civil liberties when it comes to seatbelts.

The law, in the form of an amendment to the Transport Bill, came into force on 31st January 1983. In 1991 a further law was introduced, making it also compulsory to wear seatbelts in the back of cars.

Importance of seatbelts

The AA has described the requirement to wear seatbelts as a ‘game-changer’ when it comes to reducing the number of deaths on our roads.

According to AA figures, wearing a seatbelt can half the risk of dying in a car crash, and front seatbelts were responsible for saving more than 50,000 lives in the first 20 years alone since the law was introduced.

The AA claims that an additional 300 lives a year could be saved if all occupants of a car wore their seatbelts.

Greater compliance needed

RoSPA is in agreement with the AA regarding the importance of seatbelt laws, claiming that more than 60,000 lives have been saved since the first law was introduced in 1983. The safety organisation has echoed the AA’s claim that even more lives could be saved if there was greater compliance with the law.

Despite the fact that thousands of lives have been saved by seatbelts thanks to RoSPA’s and Lord Nugent’s efforts, latest figures still show that a minority of people are not belting up,” claimed Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety.

We must not become complacent over seatbelt wearing,” he warned. “Seatbelts are highly effective in protecting vehicle occupants and significantly reduce the risk of being fatally or seriously injured in a crash.

According to RoSPA, seatbelt use in Britain is generally high, with 95% of car drivers and front seat passengers complying with the law. However, there is evidence of lower compliance with the seatbelt laws in the rear of cars (89%) and in the front seat of other vehicles (69%), and this is of grave concern to RoSPA.

Fatal consequences

As television advertisements have shown, an unbelted rear seat passenger can be thrown forward and kill someone in the front of a car,” explained Kevin Clinton. “In a crash at 30mph, if unrestrained you will be thrown forward with a force of between 30 and 60 times your own bodyweight.

The consequences of this, for both the rear passenger and anyone sitting in the front, can be fatal.

Kevin Clinton would like to see greater promotion of the benefits of wearing seatbelts, particularly with regards to the education of children. He has called for adults to set an example by always wearing their seatbelts, so that children can appreciate their importance as they grow older.


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