IAM RoadSmart has welcomed a possible toughening up of the penalties for not using seatbelts in cars, saying it’s the most obvious and direct way of saving lives in road crashes.
Today (19 July) the Department of Transport announced this as one of 74 measures to tackle road safety in the UK.
Currently, those not wearing seatbelts are given a £100 on-the-spot fine – but now the government is considering issuing penalty points for this offence.
In 2017 27% of car deaths involved people who were not wearing a seatbelt, an increase of 7% on the previous year and a marked increase on the years before it.
IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s biggest independent road safety charity, has consistently lobbied for these penalties to be made tougher, while also noting that the fear of being caught must be greater to encourage car occupants to belt-up.
An investigation by IAM RoadSmart in February 2018 found that more than a third of police forces were using their mobile safety camera vans to prosecute drivers not wearing seatbelts or using a handheld mobile phone.
The charity made a Freedom of Information request to 44 police forces and found that 16 of those that responded routinely used their safety cameras to identify other motoring offences. Those 16 forces recorded more than 8,000 unbelted drivers between them.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “This is very welcome news. The best way of tackling this ever-present issue is to make people believe there is a high chance of being caught. This could start tomorrow if consistent guidelines on using mobile speed camera vans to enforce seatbelt laws were issued.
“Currently there is no standard approach on using this high-profile resource across the UK. Making non-wearing of seatbelts an endorsable offence is also a quick win. Not only would it persuade more people to take the offence seriously, but it might benefit them to take a seatbelt awareness course. People avoid using seatbelts for a wide range of individual reasons and these views need to be challenged face-to-face.”