Seat Belts

Seat Belts

Key Facts:


  • Seat belts are designed to retain people in their seats during a crash, the belt is designed to limit the movement of the occupant whilst managing the energy transmitted to the occupant so as to mitigate the likelihood of serious or fatal injury. Within modern vehicles they are designed to work as part the wider occupant restraint system that includes airbags, seats, head restraints and the vehicle structure.

  • Early research found that seat belts alone could reduce the risk of injury for drivers by 57% at lower speeds and 48% at higher speeds, and reduced the risk of injury for all occupants by 63% at lower speeds and 55% at higher speeds.

  • Recent research found they are 50% effective at preventing fatal injuries for drivers, 45% effective at preventing serious injuries and 25% effectives at preventing minor injuries was 25%. For front seat passengers, seat belts are 45% effective at preventing fatal injuries or serious injuries, and 20% effective at preventing minor injuries.

  • Rear seat belts were less effective, being 25% effective at preventing fatal injuries, 25% effective at preventing serious injuries, and 20% effective at preventing minor injuries.

  • Lap belts are less effective than three point belts, but nevertheless provide significant levels of protection, reducing fatal injuries by 32%.

Seat Belt Use in Great Britain

  • The law requiring drivers and front seat passengers in cars and light vans to wear a seat belt was introduced on 31 January 1983. Before the introduction of this law, 40% of drivers and front seat passengers wore seat belts. This increased to 95% immediately following its introduction.

  • There was an immediate 25% reduction in driver fatalities and a 29% reduction in fatal injuries among front seat passengers. It was estimated that the seat belt law saved the lives of 241 drivers and 147 front passengers in 1983 and 270 drivers and 181 front passengers in 1984.

  • In Great Britain, almost all (95%) car drivers and front seat passengers wear seat belts, and 89% of rear passengers wear seat belts or use child car restraints. However, seat belt use is lower in other vehicles, where only 69% of drivers and front seat passengers wear seat belts. Adult males are less likely than females to wear seatbelts in all seating positions.

  • Promoting the positive benefits of seatbelt use is likely to be more effective than focusing on the negative risks of not wearing a seatbelt. Non-users need to develop habit-forming strategies to encourage resilient seatbelt wearing.

  • Highly visible seatbelt law enforcement results in an increased perceived risk of being subject to a penalty such as a fine or points on a driving licence and helps to promote improved seatbelt wearing rates.

  • Seat belt reminder (SBR) systems can significantly increase seat belt wearing rates. A cross European study found that wearing rates were 97.5% in vehicles fitted with SBR and 85.5% in vehicles without. A study in the USA found that there were 2% fewer driver fatalities in vehicles fitted with SBR, after accounting for differences in vehicle age between cars with and without SBR.

  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:16 AM
  • Last Update: 28 Mar 2013, 04:31 PM