Seat belt law UK: what is the fine for not wearing a seat belt and when you do and don’t have to use one

The current law on when it is compulsory to wear a seat belt, the exceptions, rules for children and whether you can get penalty points for breaking the law

A quarter of all car occupants killed on Britain’s roads weren’t wearing a seat belt, according to the latest figures.

Government data on road safety has revealed that most people follow the law on wearing a seat belt but that those who don’t are disproportionately likely to die in a collision.

The figures for 2020 show that almost 95% of car occupants wore a seat belt while travelling but that 23% of all those killed in collisions were not wearing a belt.

The figures have led to calls for a renewed public awareness campaign and questions over whether existing laws are strict enough.

In some limited situations delivery drivers are exempt from having to wear a seat belt

The RAC’s Simon Williams said: “As seatbelts are probably the single biggest life-saving device ever introduced into vehicles…[these] new figures beg the question whether existing laws are a sufficient enough deterrent.”

Last year it was reported that the Government was considering changing the law so that drivers who fail to wear a seat belt could be given penalty points on their licence.

Such a change could even see drivers banned from driving under totting rules, changing the current rules where the only punishment is a fine.

When did seat belts become compulsory in the UK?

Wearing a seat belt has been compulsory in the UK for drivers and front seat passengers since 1983 and for rear seat passengers since 1991 (1989 for under-14s).

Although the regulations state that you must wear a seat belt, there are certain exceptions to the rules so here we break down exactly what the law says on when you do and don’t need to belt up.

When you must wear a seat belt

You must wear a seat belt in cars, vans and other goods vehicles if one is fitted. Adults, and children aged 14 years and over, must use a seat belt, where fitted, when seated in minibuses, buses and coaches.

When you don’t need to wear a seat belt

There are, however, a few exemptions. You don’t need to wear a seat belt if you’re:

  • a driver who is reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversing
  • in a vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue services
  • a passenger in a trade vehicle and you’re investigating a fault
  • driving a goods vehicle on deliveries that is travelling no more than 50 metres between stops
  • a licensed taxi driver who is “plying for hire” or carrying passengers
  • You have a medical exemption from your doctor

You also don’t need to wear one if your vehicle did not originally come with seat belts, for example if it is a classic car built before 1965. In this instance you mustn’t carry children under the age of three, and over-threes must sit in the back seats.

Seat belt law for children

Children under three must be seated in a suitable car seat with restraints. The only exception is when travelling in a taxi, when they do not need to be restrained.

Children aged 3-12 (or up to 1.35m tall) must use a suitable child restraint, such as a car seat with a harness or a booster seat. They may use an adult belt without a child seat in a taxi or minicab where no child restraint is available or for reasons of unexpected necessity over a short distance, or if two occupied restraints prevent fitment of a third.

Children aged 12 and up (or more than 1.35m tall) must wear a seat belt.

There are specific seat belt rules and exceptions for children

Who is responsible?

Adults and children over the age of 14 are responsible for ensuring they wear a seat belt. For children under 14, the driver is responsible.

What is the fine for not wearing a seat belt?

Currently, the fine for not wearing a seat belt is £100 or up to £500 if you’re taken to court.

In Northern Ireland, you will also have three penalty points added to your driving licence.

There are also moves to add penalty points to the punishment in England, Scotland and Wales.