In the road casualty statistics published by the Department for Transport in September 2022 it was alarming to note that, of the 682 people who died in collisions in cars in Great Britain in 2021, an estimated 30% were not wearing a seat belt – the highest level recorded since recent records began.
The seat belt is probably the single most effective road safety measure of all. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of death for drivers in a road collision by some 50%. Yet 40 years since it became compulsory to wear them, over 200 people died in car crashes in Great Britain while not wearing a seat belt. This old issue needs new attention. A combination of practical and inexpensive actions by the government could dramatically reduce this number.
PACTS has published a briefing which sets out the facts and solutions to increase the seat belt wearing rates in the UK and save preventable loss of life on our roads.
In this briefing, PACTS shows that:
- 30% of people who died in cars in 2021 were not wearing a seat belt – the highest percentage since modern records began. This amounts to over 200 deaths and many more serious injuries.
- Wearing a seat belt halves the chances of dying in collision. It remains the bedrock of occupant protection, even in modern cars with airbags etc.
- Failure to wear a seat belt incurs no penalty points – unlike the other Fatal Four safety offences (speeding, mobile phone use, drink and drug driving).
For the past three years, PACTS has been drawing attention to this blind spot in government road safety policy. The 2021 data suggest the issue is getting worse, exacerbated by cuts to roads policing. While the government has acknowledged the situation it has failed to act.
PACTS has recommended a package of actions, including increased penalties, more use of cameras, increased roads policing, more effective seat belt reminders and better driver education.
David Davies, PACTS Executive Director, said:
“Over 200 people died in cars last year when not wearing a seat belt. A seat belt halves the probability of death in a crash – but only if it is worn. In National Road Safety Week, PACTS is calling on the government to act to increase seat belt wearing rates and reduce unnecessary death and injury.
“Seat belt wearing has been a legal requirement for 40 years and one of the most important safety measures. It is ridiculous that the government has dithered for so long over introducing penalty points. There is a new generation of cameras that detect seat belt offences. Penalty points are urgently needed to back them up.“