Seatbelts: the safest option

Seat belt being fastened

Putting a seatbelt on is one of the first things we do when we get in a car. But before it was made law in 1983, only one in three people wore them.

It's a vital safety precaution: the Department for Transport says that people not wearing a seatbelt are twice as likely to be killed in an accident as those that do buckle up.

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety says that seatbelts have saved over 35,000 lives in the UK since being made mandatory.

Early days of the seatbelt

The V-shaped three-point belt we know today was the brainchild of Nils Bohlin, an engineer who worked for Volvo. The invention was considered significant enough that it was registered with an open patent, so other manufacturers could fit it to their cars. The public wasn't so keen. Despite government messages, the seatbelt wasn't widely used at first.

It was only in 1983 that people really took the seatbelt seriously because wearing a seatbelt in the front of a car was made a legal requirement. By 1991 all passengers were required to buckle up and today it's unthinkable to set off without putting on a seatbelt – ‘Clunk click, every trip’ as the advertising line used to go.

A minority won’t belt up

Despite the culture change that's seen seatbelts become the norm, around 5 per cent of people still don't wear them, the Department for Transport says, typically when making a short trip.

As well as increasing risk on the road, anyone caught not wearing a seatbelt faces a £100 fine. And if prosecuted, there is a maximum fine of £500, as well as three penalty points for drivers and two penalty points for passengers who hold a driving licence.

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