Seatbelts are designed to keep people in their seats to prevent or reduce injuries in the event of a crash. Seatbelts ensure that as little contact is made between the occupant and the vehicle’s interior as possible and also reduces the risk of being thrown from the vehicle too.
Nowadays, on modern vehicles, seat belts are designed to work as a key part of the wider injury prevention measures and safety systems, such as airbags and head restraints, which would not be as effective in reducing the risk of injury if an occupant is not wearing a seat belt.
You must always wear a seat belt when travelling in the front, or the rear, of a vehicle that has seat belts fitted.
You must always make sure that children travel in an appropriate child restraint or in a seat belt if they are too big for a child restraint.
Car occupants form 64% of all road casualties. In 2010, 133,205 people were killed or injured while travelling in cars. Of these 89,787 (67%) were drivers.
Over 90% of adult front seat passengers and drivers wear seat belts, as do 66% of adult rear seat passengers. Since the law to wear seatbelts in the front was introduced in 1983, front seat belts are estimated to have saved over 50,000 lives in Great Britain.
In order to wear a seat belt safely, the following points should be adhered to:
- The belt should be worn as tight as possible, with no slack
- The lap belt should sit across the pelvic region, not the stomach
- The diagonal strap should rest over the shoulder, not the neck
- Nothing should obstruct the smooth movement of the belt by trapping it.
In most modern vehicles, the height of the top of the front seat belt can be adjusted on the B post. If you cannot get the seat belt to fit over you correctly, as described above, you should try adjusting the height.
Damaged Seat Belts
Seat belts should be regularly checked for damage. Common forms of damage to the seat belt that will reduce its effectiveness in an accident, and also lead to the vehicle failing an MOT test, are:
- Fraying or fluffing around the edges of the seat belt
- A cut which causes the fabric to split
- A hole in the seat belt
- Damage to the buckle
If in doubt, take your car to a garage and have the belt looked at by an expert.
Pregnant Occupants and Seat Belts
All pregnant women must wear seat belts by law when travelling in cars. This applies to both front and back seats. The safest way for pregnant women to wear a seat belt is:
- Place the diagonal strap between the breasts (over the breastbone) with the strap resting over the shoulder, not the neck
- Place the lap belt flat on the thighs, fitting comfortably beneath the enlarged abdomen and over the pelvis, not the bump
- The belt should be worn as tight as possible
In this way the forces applied in a sudden impact can be absorbed by the body’s frame.