Seatbelt wearing saves over 2,000 lives every year. Everyone knows they should wear a seat belt in the front seat, but many people still don’t realise how dangerous it is not to wear a seat belt in the back.

In a crash at 30mph, if you are unrestrained, you will hit the front seat, and anyone in it, with a force of between 30 and 60 times your own body weight. This could result in death or serious injury to you and people sitting in front of you.


If you have been given a ticket you can go to to sign up to the seatbelt safe scheme. The course costs £25 insead of a £60 fixed penalty fine.

Seat Belts and the Law

In 1983, front seat belt wearing regulations for drivers and passengers (both adult and children) came into force. In 1989, wearing rear seat belts became compulsory for children under 14. In 1991, when it became compulsory for adults to wear seat belts in the back of a car, there was an immediate increase from 10 per cent to 40 per cent in observed rear seat belt wearing.

For your own and others’ safety, the law requires you to use a seat belt in all motor vehicles if one is fitted and for children up to 135cms in height to use a child restraint.

The law is summarised in the table below.

Front seat Rear seat Who is responsible
Driver Seat belt must be worn if fitted Driver
Child under 3 years of age Correct child restraint must be used Correct child restraint must be used. If one is not available in a taxi, may travel unrestrained Driver
Child from 3rd birthday up to 135cms in height (approx 4’5″) (or 12th birthday, whichever they reach first) Correct child restraint must be used Correct child restraint must be used where seat belts fitted. Must use adult belt in rear seat if correct child restraint not available:- in a taxi; or
– for a short distance in an unexpected necessity; or
– if two occupied child restraints prevent fitting of a third
Child 12 or 13, or over 135cms (approx 4ft 5ins) in height Adult seat belt must be worn if available Adult seat belt must be worn if available Driver
Adult passengers Seat belt must be worn if available Seat belt must be worn if available Passenger

What are the seat belt wearing rules in mini-buses, buses and coaches?

Seatbelt wearing is already compulsory in minibuses under 2.54 tonnes unladen weight. If available, an appropriate child seat must be used in these vehicles but there is no obligation on anyone to provide them. Note the new obligation to notify passengers that seat belt wearing is compulsory – see below.

Seated passengers aged 14 years and above must use seat belts where they are fitted in all buses and coaches. Children up to 13 years should use a child car seat if one is available and suitable. If there is no suitable child car seat they should use the belt provided. The operator is not required to provide a suitable child seat.

Vehicle operators must notify passengers of the legal requirement to use seat belts. The regulations require notification by any of:

  • An official announcement, or an audio-visual presentation, made when the passenger joins the bus or within a reasonable time of his doing so;
  • A sign prominently displayed at each passenger seat equipped with a seat belt.
  • An “official announcement” means one by the driver, by a conductor or courier or by a group leader of any passengers on the vehicle.
  • A sign that takes the form of a pictorial symbol must be in the agreed form depicting a white figure on a blue background – see link to letter below for the design.

Child Restraints

Every year, over 10,000 children are killed or injured while travelling in cars, this is a worrying fact and one that needs to change. The use of high quality, well fitted safety restraints can and will reduce these numbers.

New regulations governing the use of child car seats came into force on 18 September 2006.:

“Most people make sure that children use some kind of restraint when travelling on the road, but it is vitally important to use the right one; and not to use an adult belt before the child is big enough…small children need the protection that baby seats and child seats are designed to provide. Seat belts are designed for adults. Children who have grown out of child seats still need to use booster seats and booster cushions…we estimate that these changes could prevent over 2000 child deaths or injuries each year.”

Stephen Ladyman, Road Safety Minister 2006


Having a correctly fitted seat for your child in the car is essential to keeping them safe in a vehicle. For advice on exactly what seat to use for your child and buying advice go to:

How to Persuade Your Child to Use a Child Car Seat/Booster

*Here, Jean Birtles, the Director of Top Notch Nannies who has over 10 years experience in childcare gives us her top five tips on how to encourage your child to accept and use their new car seat:

  • Make it theirs – Take your child with you when you buy the seat. Get them to choose the colour/pattern they like best so that they have ‘ownership’ of the seat.
  • Explain why calmly – Explain to your older children why they need to sit in the seat. Don’t frighten them with horror stories explain to them logically and calmly that it will help them be safe. That it will stop them bumping their head or hurting their legs if there’s a sudden stop.
  • Routine – Simply make it part of the ‘getting in car’ routine. Children like routine and repetition, it makes them feel secure, and simply treating it as something normal and unsurprising will help them get in the seat without thinking about it. Make it a fun checklist, “Daddy seat belt – check! Mummy seat belt – check!”.
  • Travel treats – Put together a special ‘travel pack’ that goes with the seat. Put a drink, a book, crayons and a puzzle book or whatever your child enjoys playing with on car journeys.
  • Name it! – Get your child to name the seat! He will be happier to sit on ‘Henry’ the seat if it’s a name he has chosen.


“Getting your child to accept a car seat, even if they’re older, is about making it theirs, making it part of the routine and not frightening or threatening them with horror stories. Children respond really well to calm explanation and the odd treat or two!”

 Jean Birtles from Top Notch Nannies.

Older Children

Some older children might have been using adult Seat belts already and won’t be keen to go back to using a booster cushion. Our experts at Norland College, who have been at the forefront of childcare since 1892, offer their advice on how to encourage older children to use car restraints.

Explain to the child that the seat isn’t a car seat / booster seat, which they used to have to use when they were younger, but that it is the right equipment to enable them to wear an adult seat belt safely.

Try comparing the protective clothing worn by one of the child’s role models (e.g. footballer, racing driver) to keep them safe, with the equipment in the car which keeps the child safe.

For more information on Child Seats & the Law you can down load the DfT’s leaflet using this link.

*Extract from DfT Think! Website

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