A recent Department for Transport (DfT) report has highlighted growing concerns over serious injuries and fatalities linked to seat belt use – or rather, lack of - for drivers and passengers using the UK’s road network.
The DfT statistics show that out of the 1,793 who were killed in road accidents last year, 787 were in cars. Out of the car fatalities total, there were 378 cases where it was not possible to confirm whether a seat belt was being worn, but out of the remaining deaths, a significant 27% - 101 cases – involved the deceased not having worn a seat belt. In the UK, failure to comply with the law carries a minimum penalty of £100, which can increase by up to £500 if the case goes to court.
The most common type of restraint is the three-point seat belts, originally developed by Volvo, that run across your lap and chest. Over the past few decades, this revolution in occupant road safety has been responsible for a 50% reduction in deaths following a crash.The wider DfT statistics also show that 170,993 people were killed or injured on UK roads last year, which was the lowest level ever recorded and 6 per cent less when compared to 2016. Motorcyclists were responsible for the biggest rise in fatalities, making up almost one-fifth of road deaths. 349 motorcyclists died in road accidents last year, up 9 per cent compared to 2016, and 101 cyclists were killed, which was one less compared to 2016.
A DfT spokesman commented:
“We have some of the safest roads in the world and we are always looking at ways of making them safer. The number of deaths where people were not wearing a seat belt is shocking…up to one in four deaths in a car could have been prevented by simply plugging in before moving.”
Executive director for the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, David Davies, said:
“Seat belt-wearing became compulsory nearly 40 years ago…yet in 2017, more than a quarter of people who died in car crashes were not wearing a seat belt. Many of them would have survived if they had been belted. We recognise this problem has not been cracked and to focus on it again."
Pete Williams, spokesman for RAC road safety added:
“This new data makes for sobering reading – there has now been no substantial reduction in fatalities since 2010 with the numbers killed on the roads remaining stubbornly high.”