It wasn’t until 1983 that it became compulsory for front seat passengers to use seatbelts, and road safety campaigners have marked the 25th anniversary of this important law.
Right from the start, compliance rates were high for front seat drivers, with over nine out of ten drivers and front seat passengers using their belts.
Yet when the law was extended to include rear seat passengers in 1991, the take up wasn’t nearly as good – and even now, more than a third of adults still decline to “belt up in the back”.
Technically, if your rear seat passenger is over the age of 14, it is their own responsibility to ensure they put the belt on.
Why they choose to ignore the belt is a bit of a mystery; perhaps teenagers think it doesn’t look “cool” to put on the seat belt. Or they think “we’re not going far, I won’t bother”, only pulling on the harness if they are preparing for a long motorway journey.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has a very creative TV ad that shows graphically the impact of a teenager not wearing his belt when his mum is involved in a crash – he flies forward and kills her. Yet rear seat belt compliance is still an issue, particularly among young adults.
When children stop using their booster seats, and start to “clunk click” for themselves, that’s a good idea to check the condition of the seat belt itself. If it is frayed or worn at all, it should be replaced. Give the belt a sharp tug to check that the inertia reel is still effective.
Then start to build into your “cockpit drill” (the safety checks you do before you actually drive off) a look behind to check that your rear seat passengers have actually put their belts on. You will probably find that this is done best by glancing around rather than peering awkwardly in the rear view mirror.
If your passengers (of any age) argue that it is their choice whether or not to wear the seat belt, you will find that your counter argument – that it’s your choice whether or not to start the car! – is pretty effective too.
This article has been reproduced with the permission of the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists)