Seat belts

Seat belts

Contents

Seat belts

It's an offence, with a few exceptions, to drive a vehicle or to be a passenger without wearing a seat belt.

The following table is a summary of the rules that apply to the wearing of seat belts and who would be committing the offence if it's not worn.

PersonRuleWho is responsible

Driver

Belt must be worn if fitted

Driver

A passenger aged 14 and over

Belt must be worn if fitted

Passenger

Child aged under 3

Correct car seat must be used

Driver

Child aged 3–11, or under 135cm (4ft 5in)

Correct car seat must be used

Driver

Child aged 12 or 13, or over 135cm (4ft 5in)

Seat belt must be worn if fitted

Driver

Exceptions

You don't need to wear a seatbelt if the vehicle:

  • was originally made without seatbelts; however, a child aged under 3 can't be carried in such a vehicle at all and a child over 3 can only sit in the back seats
  • is being used under a trade licence for investigating or fixing a mechanical fault in the vehicle

Also, you don't need to wear a seatbelt if you're:

  • reversing, or supervising a leaner driver who is reversing.
  • holding a medical exemption certificate
  • driving a licensed taxi or licensed private hire vehicle
  • travelling in emergency vehicles, including ambulances and police cars
  • driving a goods vehicle that is making deliveries and not travelling more than 50 metres between stops

Children

Child car seats must be appropriate for the child's weight. There are 4 groups designed for children of different weights (see the Gov.uk website for more information).

Other things to remember:

  • It's illegal to use a rear-facing baby seat in a front seat protected by an airbag, unless the airbag has been deactivated. Also, child car seats mustn't be used in side-facing seats.
  • Children aged under 12 and below 135cm can't travel in the front of a car without an appropriate seat or cushion.
  • Children aged under 3 can't travel without an appropriate seat, except in the back of a taxi or minicab.
  • Children aged 3 or older can travel without a child's car seat in a taxi or minicab, but they must use an adult seatbelt. If your vehicle doesn't have seatbelts, a child over 3 can travel in the back seat without their car seat.
  • Children aged under 3 mustn't travel in cars, vans or goods vehicles without a seatbelt or car seat.
  • In the case of any unexpected but necessary journeys over a short distance, a child aged over 3 can use the adult belt if the correct child seat isn't available. This doesn't apply to a regular school run or planned journey. You mustn't take children aged under 3 in a vehicle without a seatbelt or the correct child car seat.
  • If there is no room for a third child seat in the back of the car, the third child (if aged under 3) can't travel unless they're in the front seat with the correct child seat. If the third child is aged over 3, they can either use the front seat with the correct child seat or they can sit in the back using an adult belt.

Minibuses and coaches

All minibuses must have forward facing seats for each child (up to the age of 15) carried on an organised trip fitted with lap seat belts. When travelling by coach, all passengers over the age of 14 must wear seat belts if these are fitted.

In minibuses under 2.54 tonnes unladen weight, children aged 3 and older must use the correct car seat for their weight, if available. However, it's not compulsory for the driver or anyone else to provide the child's car seat.

If the child's car seat isn't available or doesn't fit, children aged 3 and older must use the adult seat belt. Children aged under 3 don't have to use an adult belt and can travel unrestrained.

Sentence

These offences don't result in penalty points or disqualifications. If the matter does go before the magistrates, they can impose a fine of up to £500. However, it's usually dealt with by the fixed penalty system of a £100 fine.