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40 years after landmark seatbelt compulsory UK law

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Seat belt law

Today marks the 40th anniversary for the UK law that was introduced 31st January 1983, which made the wearing of seat belts compulsory for all car drivers and front seat passengers.

According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), prior the introduction of this new law, only 40% of drivers and front seat passengers wore seat belts.

YouTube video

In this BBC archive footage, Peter Gould reports from West London and John Thorne from Merseyside, to hear what drivers think about being ordered to belt up, and measure the level of compliance with the new laws.
Originally broadcast 31 January, 1983, courtesy of BBC Archive.

The first of its kind studies based on UK driver statistics published in the late 1970s revealed that in instances of a vehicle collision where seat belts when worn, the outcome of severe or life-threatening injuries were reduced by 44% and ‘moderate’ injuries reduced by 44%.

With the evidence helping to drive changes in UK legislation, how did the public respond?

Following comprehensive public awareness campaigns and roadside enforcement by Police Forces, the public soon responded, resulting in an impressive increase to 95% of drivers reported to wearing seatbelts.

RoSPA research reported that following the new seatbelt law being introduced, 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 1989, it became compulsory for rear seat passengers under 14 years old to use seat belts, if fitted, or an appropriate child restraint if available. Soon to follow in 1991, it became compulsory for adult passengers to wear seat belts in the rear if seat belts are fitted.

TTC is a leading UK road safety provider, who are also celebrating their anniversary in 2023, marking the company’s 30th year of “Protecting people on the move”.  TTC is appointed by 15 Police Forces to deliver National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) courses for drivers that have committed a range of driving offences, delivering 1.8million hours of driver training annually.

The company’s goal is to make the UK’s roads safer, through offering a range of learning opportunities designed to positively change driver attitude and behaviour. 

In 2019, TTC were appointed by leading UK road safety charity UKROEd to develop new digital learning content for their Your Belt Your Life course, which is offered online for drivers that have been caught driving without wearing a seat belt.  The course is designed to raise awareness of the dangers and negative impacts to themselves and to others by not wearing a seat belt when driving or as a passenger. 

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