Wearing a seatbelt probably saved my sister’s life. And it wasn’t just the fact that she was wearing her seatbelt but that her boyfriend, sitting directly behind her, was wearing his too.

Of the other couple in the car when they crashed, the driver had the worst injuries because her boyfriend wasn’t wearing his seatbelt and he flew through the air propelling her forwards and smashing her face and chest into the steering wheel. If the same had happened to my sister she would have been unlikely to escape with just a broken wrist.

Most drivers wear seatbelts, but drivers and passengers aged 17-34 have the lowest seatbelt wearing rates combined with the highest accident rate.¹ When you consider that rear seat passengers are less likely to wear a seatbelt² then my sister is very lucky.

If you need any further proof take a look at this video. It might seem a bit dated now but the message is as powerful as ever:

For my sake, I always make sure that the person sitting behind me buckles up.

The fact is in a crash you’re twice as likely to die if you don’t wear a seatbelt³.

THINK seatbelts – Three Strikes

 

It’s important to watch how you wear your seatbelt too, so you have the best possible protection in a crash.

A good friend of mine had his seatbelt on in a crash. He survived thanks to the seatbelt but he also lost his spleen because he’d buckled across his stomach and over the waistband of his jeans. As the impact of the crash tightened the seatbelt, the metal buckle on his jeans’ belt was forced inwards and ruptured the spleen.

Make sure the belt that goes across your lap fits snugly over your hips and upper thigh area, not the stomach. The diagonal strap should rest securely across your chest and shoulders, not your neck or face, and never place the strap under your arms or behind your back.⁴

 

Embrace Life – always wear your seat belt

The law

In the UK, drivers – and passengers – must wear a seatbelt in the front and back of a vehicle (provided one is fitted in the seat you’re using). Drivers caught without a seatbelt face on-the-spot fines of £100, and, if prosecuted, can face a fine of up to £500.⁵

You’re only allowed 1 person in each seat fitted with a seat belt. And children must use the correct car seat for their weight until they reach 135 centimetres tall or their 12th birthday, whichever is first.⁶ It is the driver’s legal responsibility to ensure that any passenger under 14 years old is using the appropriate child restraint or an adult seat belt. For more details on children’s car seats please see here.

The only time you don’t need to wear a seat belt is if you’re reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversing. Or, if you have a medical exemption, in which case you must have a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’ from your doctor and keep it in your car to show to the police if you’re stopped.

If you have a medical exemption you will need to tell your car insurer.

Wearing a seat belt while pregnant⁷

By law, all pregnant women must wear a seat belt when travelling in the front or back seat of a car.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) suggest the safest way for a pregnant woman to wear a seat belt is to place the diagonal strap over the shoulder, not the neck, and between the breasts. The lap belt needs to be flat on the thighs, fitting comfortably beneath the belly, and over the pelvis not the bump. The belt should be worn as tight as possible.

Pregnant women should not wear ‘Lap-only-Belts’ as they have been shown to cause serious injuries to unborn children in the event of sudden deceleration. Mother and baby are both safer in a collision if a lap and diagonal seat belt is being worn correctly.

Wearing a seat belt if you have a disability

You must wear a seat belt if you’re a disabled driver or passenger, unless you don’t have to for medical reasons. You may need to adapt your vehicle.

Full details of the UK legal requirements for seat belts can be found here.

 


Sources:

 

[1] [3] http://www.think.direct.gov.uk/seat-belts.html
[2] http://www.rospa.com/roadsafety/info/youngdrivers.pdf
[4] [7] www.rospa.com/roadsafety/adviceandinformation/vehiclesafety/in-carsafetycrash-worthiness/seat-belt-advice.aspx
[5] [6] www.gov.uk/seat-belts-law/overview

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