bvrla white x 60px
Fleet UK

02392 245570

Monday to Friday 08.30am to 5.30pm


car seatbelt header 1

Most people in the UK aged over 40 remember when it wasn’t legally required to wear seat belts in vehicles. In 1983 it became a legal requirement for drivers and passengers to wear seat belts – which was sensible given that statistics show that you’re twice as likely to die in a road collision if you don’t wear a seatbelt.

This one statistic alone should make sure that everyone buckles up on every car journey. However, it’s a sad fact of life that not everyone does.

While many of us are aware that you have to wear a seatbelt by law, but perhaps not the finer details of the law, we have put together this useful guide on seatbelt legislation in the UK.

This will hopefully help any of our customers, or people who come across this post, are not only fully informed, but will avoid any unnecessary fines or points on their licence.


By law, you must wear a seat belt in cars and goods vehicles where one is fitted.

There aren’t many exceptions to this. The driver is liable to prosecution if they or any passengers in the vehicle who are under 14 years old do not use a seat belt or a child restraint where required.

Children up to 135cms tall must use the appropriate child restraint for their weight (not age) when travelling in the front or back seat of any car, van or goods vehicle. 'Child restraint' means any of baby seat, child seat, booster seat or booster cushion.

A child can use an adult belt when they reach 135cm or their 12th birthday, whichever comes first.

In buses and coaches with seat belts fitted, passengers aged 14 years and above must use them. Passengers on vehicles used for public fare-paying passengers on 30mph roads are exempt.

The law for cars, vans and other goods vehicles is summarised in the table below.


Child up to 3 years old

Child from 3rd Birthday up to
135 cms in height
(approx 4'5") or 12th birthday,
whichever is reached first

Child aged 12 or 13, or over 135cms
(approx 4' 5") in height

Passengers aged 14 and over
   Seatbelt must be worn            if fitted      

   Correct child restraint
   must be used

  Correct child restraint
  must be used

  Seatbelt must be
  used if fitted

Seatbelt must be
worn if fitted

The correct child restraint must be used.

If one isn't available in a licensed taxi/private
hire vehicle, the child may travel unrestrained

Where seat belts are fitted, the correct child restraint must be used.

The child must use an adult belt in the back seat if the correct child restraint is not available either:

- in a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle
- for a short distance in an unexpected necessity
- if two occupied child restraints prevent fitting of a third

A child three years and over may travel unrestrained
in the back seat of a vehicle if seatbelts are not fitted
in the rear

Seatbelt must be used if fitted

Seatbelt must be used if fitted






What are the penalties for not wearing a seatbelt?

car seatbelt image 1

If you’re caught not wearing a seatbelt in the UK, the on-the-spot fine is usually around £100 with a maximum fine of £500 if you’re prosecuted.

What are the exceptions to not wearing a seatbelt?

  • You’re a driver who is reversing or supervising a learner driver who is reversing
  • You’re in a vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue services
  • You’re a passenger in a trade vehicle and you’re investigating a fault
  • You’re driving a goods vehicle on deliveries that are travelling no more than 50 metres between stops
  • You’re a licensed taxi driver who is carrying passengers

Are there medical exemptions that make me exempt from wearing a seatbelt?

There are also the following medical reasons which allow you to be exempt from wearing a seat belt.

It’s best to check with your doctor first to confirm that you’re unable to wear a seat belt for medical reasons – if so, a doctor can issue you a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing.

If you have one of these certificates you must:

  • Keep it in your vehicle
  • Show it to the police if you’re pulled over
  • Inform your insurance provider

What if my car isn’t fitted with seatbelts?

car seatbelt classic cars 1

The majority of cars have seat belts, but in some cases, a vehicle won’t have them fitted. This is generally only the case with classic cars.

The laws regarding cars without seat belts states that no children under 3 are allowed to travel in the vehicle and that children over 3 must sit in the back seats.

The driver and passengers are permitted not to wear a seat belt, but this law only applies if the car was originally made without seat belts.

The law in Northern Ireland

At present, a driver in Northern Ireland may get a fine of £500 and three penalty points for not wearing a seat belt. If you’re carrying a passenger aged under 14 years old without the proper restraint you are also liable for a £500 fine and three penalty points on your licence.

For passengers 14 years old and over, it is their responsibility to make sure 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.

Why do I have to wear a seatbelt?

car seatbelt last image

Apart from the fact it could be breaking the law, wearing a seat belt could potentially save your and others’ lives. You should always wear a seat belt regardless of how far you’re going.

If you’re involved in a crash, a seat belt will stop you from being thrown out of your seat. It’s equally important to wear a seat belt if sitting in the rear of a vehicle, as being thrown into the seat in front could injure or kill the person in front of you.

Not wearing your seat belt may seem like a small offence, but the consequences of not wearing one can be devastating. Figures from 2017 show that of the 787 drivers or passengers who died in 2017, 27% were not wearing seat belts.

Yet despite warnings that people are twice as likely to die in a car accident if they do not buckle up, some are still willing to take the risk. It’s possible that some drivers or passengers feel more cocooned these days and feel less at risk due to the latest safety features in vehicles.

As the author of this article, let me pass on why it’s so important to wear a seat belt. On one winter’s morning, I set off early on my usual journey to the gym before starting work. As I was driving down a country road my car hit a patch of black ice, which resulted in me having a head-on collision with a van.

Thankfully, I was wearing my seat belt and there were no physical injuries. However, it would have been a completed different matter if I hadn’t worn my seat belt.

Some UK Seat Belt Facts:

  • People are less likely to wear a seat belt when travelling on a short journey. However, it doesn’t matter what distance you drive, seat belts should always be worn
  • Drivers between the ages of 17-34 who’ve been legally required to wear seat belts virtually their entire lives have been found to have the lowest seat belt wearing rates
  • In a collision, you’re twice as likely to die if you don’t wear a seat belt

Join our other 2,000+ newsletter subscribers by signing up to receive exclusive weekly special offers and content

button subscribe

Fleet UK are a credit broker and not a lender, we are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered No : 682714

Registered in England & Wales with company number : 4018111 | Data Protection No : Z6393738 | VAT No : 755080825

Registered Office : 7 Stratfield Park, Elettra Avenue, Waterlooville, Hampshire PO7 7XN

Disclaimer: All vehicle images and descriptions are for illustration and reference purposes only, all vehicle leases are subject to credit approval and subject to change at any time. E&OE.

Copyright © 2021 Fleet UK, All rights reserved.

Powered by CALAS