AA seat belt report

Seatbelts more than halve the risk of death in a collision

More than one third of car occupants killed in collisions are not wearing seat belts

More than one third of car occupants killed in collisions are not wearing seat belts

More than one third of car occupants killed in collisions are not wearing seat belts, according to the AA Seat Belt Report, 'Clunk Click'.

The report shows that seatbelts more than halve the risk of death in a collision.

However, the 7% not wearing seatbelts are overrepresented in fatalities, which suggests that the sort of driver who chooses not to wear a belt is twice as likely to be involved in a crash as someone who does belt up.

Nearly 300 lives per year would be saved if all car occupants belted up.

The AA Seat Belt Report suggests that targeting these non belt wearing "crash magnets" could have beneficial effects beyond the issue of seat belts. The report also points to evidence from Lord Stevens, the ex Metropolitan Police Commissioner, that Princess Diana would have survived the Paris car crash had she been wearing a seat belt.

Seat belt wearing rates are lower amongst:

  • Rear seat passengers
  • Company car drivers
  • Only 69% of drivers of vans, lorries, buses, coaches and minibuses regularly wear seat-belts

AA seat belt report (pdf)

download report

These groups are less likely to wear belts late at night or early in the morning.

Occasional wearers

14% of the population are intermittent or occasional belt users. They tend to give excuses such as:

  • "It depended on who I'm with, only going down the road, yet on a longer journey I will always wear one"
  • "It digs in my neck, not very flattering, you're forever pulling it"
  • "If I'm in the front I feel there's something totally missing, I don't feel secure, whereas in the back it's totally different"

Compulsory wearing

There was a long battle to get the introduction of laws for compulsory wearing of seat belts:

  • 1970s – saw the 'Clunk click' campaign which helped increase seat belt wearing rates from 30% to 40%.
  • 1973 – saw the first of 12 failed attempts to introduce legislation. Arguments about personal liberty won the day.
  • 1983 – Regulations for compulsory wearing of front belts came in for a three year trial (deaths fell by 300 per year)
  • 1991 – Adults required to use rear seat belts
  • 2009 – on June 29 the penalty for not wearing a seat belt rose from £30 to £60
  • 2009 – Thames Valley police in conjunction with AA Drive Tech offered safety courses to offenders not wearing belts. 66% accepted courses rather than fines.

There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from Princess Diana's tragic death in Paris in terms of driving too fast, drink/drug driving and the added risks of not wearing a seat belt

Edmund King, AA president

Comment

Commenting, Edmund King, AA President, said: "It is astonishing that one third of vehicle occupants killed do not wear seat belts. In the current safety debate with concerns over road safety funding there is one thing that could be done overnight to save 300 lives per year at no cost – that is every vehicle occupant to belt up on every journey.

"There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from Princess Diana's tragic death in Paris in terms of driving too fast, drink/drug driving and the added risks of not wearing a seat belt."

Report recommendations

  • Government should consider increasing the penalty for drivers not wearing seat belts to include penalty points
  • Police should be encouraged to carry out more spot-checks particularly on back seat passengers
  • More police forces should offer seat belt education courses in lieu of fines
  • Drivers should insist that all their passengers belt up
  • Employers should be stricter with professional drivers who don't belt up
  • Government, local authorities, emergency services should continue seat belt campaigns
  • Lessons should be learnt from the tragic Diana car crash
  • Variable messages should tell drivers that in one third of deaths the occupant was not wearing a seat belt
  • Driving instructors should reinforce the 'Clunk Click every trip' message at every driving lesson
  • Television soap operas should publicise the importance of seat belts in story lines
  • Reporters, officials and presenters on television should always belt up

AA Seat Belt Report (pdf)

download report

(17 January 2013)

Image by Volvo Cars - Volvo started fitting seatbelt reminders to their passenger cars in 1971