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Wearing a seat belt and exemptions

The law states that you must use a seat belt if fitted unless you qualify for a medical exemption and have the certificate to prove it. For your own safety and that of others, you should know how to correctly use a seat belt, child restraint, car seat or booster seat.

The law - seat belts and child restraints

The law requires that drivers and passengers aged 14 and over in cars, vans and other commercial vehicles must wear a seatbelt, if available. As a driver you are responsible for ensuring that anyone under the age of 14 wears a seat belt or uses an appropriate child restraint as required by law.

  Front seat Rear seat Who is responsible?
Driver Seat belt must be worn if fitted Driver
Child under three Correct child restraint must be used Correct child restraint must be used. If one is not available in a taxi, may travel unrestrained Driver
Child from third birthday up to 135 cms in height (or twelfth birthday, whichever they reach first) Correct child restraint must be used

Correct child restraint must be used where seat belts are fitted. Must use adult belt in a rear seat if correct child restraint not available:

  • in a taxi
  • for a short distance in an unexpected necessity
  • if two occupied child restraints prevent fitting a third
Driver
Child 12 or 13, or over 135 cms in height Seat belt (or child restraint) must be worn if fitted Seat belt (or child restraint) must be worn if fitted Driver
All passengers 14 and over Seat belt must be worn if fitted Seat belt must be worn if fitted Passenger

Correct use of seat belts and child restraints

Taking a few moments to use a seat belt correctly or fit a child restraint could help save lives and reduce injuries in the event of  a collision. Find out more about the law and your responsibilities as a driver on the link below.

Wearing a seat belt on a minibus, bus or coach

If you are travelling in a minibus you must wear a seat belt if one is fitted (or a child restraint if available).

On a bus or coach you should always wear a seat belt if one is fitted. If you are aged 14 or over, the law states that you must wear a seat belt if fitted.

The responsibility for making sure that the regulations which require children aged three to 13 years to use seat belts (or child restraints if available) are applied on buses and coaches is currently being considered.

You may be guilty of an offence if you permit (either as the driver of the van or the owner/employer) passengers to be carried in an unsafe manner in the rear of a goods vehicle.

Exemptions from wearing a seat belt

There are some exemptions from wearing a seat belt. There is no legal requirement to wear a seat belt if you’re:

  • a driver who is reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversing
  • driving a goods vehicle, on deliveries, that is travelling no more than 50 metres between stops
  • a licensed taxi driver who is ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers

You may be exempted from wearing a seat belt on medical grounds. In such circumstances your doctor may issue a 'Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing' if he or she decides that it is not suitable for you to wear a seat belt on medical grounds. This must be produced if the police ask you for it.

Wearing a seat belt while pregnant

You must wear a seat belt if you are pregnant unless your doctor certifies that you are exempt on medical grounds. You will need to produce your certificate if the police ask you for it. Bear in mind that it is often a greater risk to travel without a seat belt than to wear it in such circumstances and wearing your seat belt safely will help protect you and your unborn child.

You’ll need to take extra care adjusting your seat belt. You'll be safer and more comfortable if you wear the:

  • diagonal strap between your breasts, moving it around the side of your bump
  • lap strap as low as possible across your hips and under your bump – if it goes over your belly button, it's too high

If you’re driving and need to make room for your bump, don’t put your seat where you can’t reach the clutch, brake and accelerator. This could affect your reaction times when driving. If you move the seat check your mirrors are still in the right place.

Penalties for not wearing a seat belt

As a driver you may get a fine of £500 and three penalty points for not wearing your seat belt. If you are carrying a child under 14 without the proper restraint you are liable for a fine of £500 and three penalty points.

For passengers 14 years old and over, it is their own responsibility to ensure that they wear a seat belt if there is one available. As a passenger you may get a fine of £500 for not wearing a seat belt and can be awarded two penalty points.

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