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January 31st is the 30th anniversary of the UK’s first (front) seat belt law coming into force
January 31st is the 30th anniversary of the UK’s first (front) seat belt law coming into force, and new AA/Populus research reveals that in 1983 nearly a third of AA members (32%) were happy not to Clunk-Click and took the risk of being thrown through the windscreen in a crash.
Worst were the nearly two out of five (38%) drivers in the North East and Northern Ireland who didn’t wear seat belts before the law compelled them to. Lower-income groups were significantly more likely to ignore calls to belt up with 42% taking the risk.
Now, the AA/Populus survey of 17,883 AA members shows, a mere 44 of them never wear a seat belt and 6% still put themselves at risk by belting up only sometimes or most of the time.
This original seat belt law now enjoys 95% acceptance of its effectiveness, with 73% of AA members seeing it as very effective and 22% somewhat effective.
Acceptance of seat belt laws was not straightforward and took time, perhaps offering hope in cracking the hard nut that is mobile phone law compliance
Edmund King, president of the AA
“Along with the backlash against drink-driving, acceptance of the seat belt law shows what can be achieved in persuading motorists to break dangerous habits and vastly improve their chances of survival in crashes,” says Edmund King, the AA’s president.
“Acceptance of seat belt laws was not straightforward and took time, perhaps offering hope in cracking the hard nut that is mobile phone law compliance.”
Seat belts more than half the risk of death in a collision. Those 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.
It is estimated that front seat belts saved over 50,000 lives* in the first twenty years since the legislation and will have saved thousands more lives in the last decade. Seat belts have been a game-changer in saving lives on the road.
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. The AA campaigned for seat belt wearing until the law was introduced.
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
2010 – “Clunk Click: AA seat belt report” published
2013 – 30th Anniversary of seat belt legislation
(29 January 2013)
AA / Populus survey conducted 14th to 20th December 2012 of 17,883 drivers. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
* ROSPA Road Safety Information Sheet estimates 50,000 lives saved between 1983-2003 due to front seat belt wearing.