The Rules

Woman Attaching Seat Belt In The CarAlthough wearing a seatbelt comes as second nature to many, there are important rules and regulations regarding the wearing of a seatbelt, which has been a legal requirement since 1983.

Punishment

The standard punishment for someone who is caught not wearing their seatbelt is a (minimum) fixed penalty notice of £60. This penalty notice does not mean that you will get any points on your licence. Failure to pay the fine may result in the case going to court, where the fine could be as high as £500.

Who?

The above rules apply to all adults, passengers and drivers. In this instance, an adult is anyone who is over the age of 14. Therefore, if a 13 year old child was caught without a seatbelt, the responsibility would fall on the parent, whereas a 15 year old would be responsible themselves. There are cases when people are exempted from wearing a seatbelt, however their exemption must be proven to be valid to the authorities.  

All children under the age of three cannot be allowed to travel unless there is an appropriate child restraint for their weight. If there is no front airbag, it is illegal for a child to travel in a rear-facing child restraint in the front seat. These rules do not apply when travelling in the rear of a licensed taxi. If a taxi does not have restraints for young children, they are allowed to travel unrestrained.

For children who are aged between 3 and 14, the restraint required is dependent on the size of the child. All children under 135cm (4’5”) or under 12 years of age must travel in car seats which are appropriate for their height. Children who exceed these requirements are permitted to travel using solely an adult seatbelt. A child needs only to exceed one of the above requirements. For example, an 8 year old who is 140cm or a 13 year old who is 130cm would both be allowed to travel without a child restraint. There are circumstances where these rules are not binding. For example, in a taxi or a privately rented vehicle which does not have any child restraints.  Also, if there are already two car seats in use, thereby preventing the use of a third. It is possible that children can also be exempted from the requirements in circumstances where a short journey is necessary and a car seat is unavailable.

When?

Seatbelts must be worn in all cars which have seatbelts fitted in them. However, some older cars were not fitted with seatbelts. It is legal for passengers and drivers to travel without seatbelts in these cars. However, it is not legal for children under the age of three to travel in cars without seatbelts.

Seatbelts are not legally required in buses, coaches and minibuses. Nonetheless, if they are provided, they must be worn by passengers and drivers alike. Operators are required by law to notify passengers about the presence of seatbelts in their vehicles. They must do this via an announcement or clear signs.

Child restraints

All children under the age of 12 or shorter than 135cm must sit in an appropriate child restraint or car seat when travelling. Child restraints include booster cushions and baby seats. In order to determine which form of restraint is appropriate, the weight of the child must be considered. This is a general guide for the measurement of child seat sizes:

  • Group 0 and Group 0+. Baby seats - rear-facing and for children up to 10kg and up to 13kg respectively (approx age birth to 9-12 months)
  • Group I. Child seats - forward facing and for children 9kg-18kg (approx 9 months to 4 years)
  • Group II. Booster seats - for children from 15kg-25kg (approx 4 -6 years), or 15kg up to 36 kg)
  • Group III. Booster cushions - for children from 22kg and up to 36kg (from approx 6 years)

These categories are relevant for restraints which have been approved by UN ECE Regulation 44.03. The group within which the seat falls should be indicated on approved seats, as well as the E 44.03 label.

Seatbelt adjusters without the E 44.03 label are designed to ensure comfort; they are not legally suitable for the maintenance of safety.

Exemptions

As previously mentioned, there are cases when people can be exempted from the wearing of a seatbelt. There are both medical exemptions and other cases. It is important to remember that the validity of the exemption must be proven.

In the case of medical exemptions (such as pregnancies or disabilities) the individual must have a signed medical certificate. Without such a certificate, there can be no exemption from seatbelt regulations on medical grounds, irrespective of the circumstances. All medical certificates for exemption which are signed in the UK should have an EU symbol on them, which renders them valid throughout the EU. Should a doctor refuse to sign a certificate, they are obliged to give you the reasons behind their decision. At this stage, you are entitled to seek a second professional opinion.

There are a number of other situations in which an individual can be exempted from seatbelt regulations. For example, if a driver is reversing or an instructor is supervising a driver who is reversing, neither have to wear a seatbelt. Also, passengers in emergency vehicles (police/ fire) do not have to wear seatbelts. Exemptions also apply to licensed taxi drivers and passengers, if they are working at the time.

If you are in a vehicle that is collecting or delivering goods (with stops which are under 50m apart) or are riding in a trade vehicle en route to fixing a mechanical fault, you are also exempt from seatbelt regulations. Finally, all passengers travelling in vehicles which are part of a procession arranged by or on behalf of the Crown are exempt from seatbelt regulations.

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