There is no doubt that seatbelts save lives and lessen injury. Does not wearing a seatbelt necessarily mean reduced compensation – not always.
30 years of seatbelts saving lives
The introduction of mandatory seatbelt laws commemorated its 30th anniversary last month.
Seatbelts have been saving the lives of motorists for decades and with the recent 30th anniversary of the introduction of mandatory seatbelt use in vehicles last month, now is a particularly apt time to remind drivers of their benefits.
What the law states
Introduced on January 31st 1983, the legislation states that any occupant of a vehicle that has been fitted with seatbelts is required to use them. Moreover, only one person is allowed to sit in each seat fitted with a seatbelt.
Children are also required to buckle up and should be furnished with the correct car seat for their weight until they reach a height of 135 cm or their 12th birthday, whichever comes first.
Failure to adhere to these rules can result in a fixed penalty notice of £60 for each unbuckled individual in a vehicle, while fines of up to £500 can be seen should the case go to court.
Has the message sunk in?
Research carried out by the AA in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of mandatory seatbelt use highlighted the overwhelming support that UK drivers now give to this form of road safety.
In a poll of more than 17,000 motorists carried out in January, the results showed that 95 per cent of respondents recognised the effectiveness of seatbelts in helping to save lives. This builds on data from 1983 when a similar poll was taken, when just 33 per cent of individuals felt this way.
“Along with the backlash against drink-driving, acceptance of the seatbelt law shows what can be achieved in persuading motorists to break dangerous habits and vastly improve their chances of survival in crashes,” commented AA president Edmund King.
Compensation claims for motorists
Individuals involved in a road traffic accident may wish to seek compensation for any injuries they sustain, but if the driver or passenger has failed to buckle up they could have some difficulties in doing so.
Gary Lee, chartered legal executive at Hayward Baker, advises: “Not wearing a seatbelt may have an effect on a claim.
“That is not to say that you won’t be able to make a claim if you were not wearing a seatbelt if you are injured in an accident that was not your fault; however, the insurers will try and argue that the amount of compensation should be reduced for ‘contributory negligence’ where they can prove that had the seatbelt been worn the injuries would have been reduced or avoided entirely.”
As a result, all drivers should remember the importance of securing their seatbelt every time they step into their vehicle – it is simply a matter of common sense and taking the proper precautions to ensure one’s safety.
Other road safety laws to be aware of
Recently introduced in 2007, the UK government issued a ban on drivers using a mobile phone while in charge of a moving vehicle.
Individuals caught doing so face fines of up to £60 and three penalty points on their licence, although the use of hands-free kits is sanctioned. However, police retain the power to stop and penalise any driver they feel is distracted and not in full control of their vehicle.
For new drivers the penalties can be even more severe, as individuals prosecuted for using a mobile phone while driving within the first two years of passing their test will receive six penalty points on their licence.
The only instances when motorists are legally able to use a mobile phone in their vehicle are when the car or van is safely parked or if calling 999 or 112 in an emergency situation and it is unsafe or impractical to pull over.