Calls for harsher punishments for not wearing seatbelt after PM fined

Rishi Sunak appears to ride in car without wearing a seatbelt

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New research from the RAC found that more than two-thirds (68 percent) believe drivers should be responsible for ensuring all their passengers wear seatbelts. Currently, drivers only have responsibility to make sure they and any children in their vehicles are buckled up properly – with the latter potentially needing to be in a child car seat or booster seat depending on their age or height. 

The RAC’s research suggests this responsibility should be broadened to include all passengers, with a third of respondents (33 percent) also believing that drivers should be penalised in the event anyone they’re travelling with is caught not wearing a seatbelt and putting themselves at risk.

This past week marks the 40-year anniversary of the seatbelt law being introduced, making it mandatory for seatbelts to be worn in vehicles that had them fitted.

A quarter of motorists believe the current law – where a driver can be fined up to £500 for not buckling up – is too lenient.

A clear majority of these (69 percent) think that those who break the law should pay both a fine and receive at least three points on their licences. 

This is something that may come to pass as the Government stated last autumn it is considering the merits of introducing penalty points for those driving without seatbelts.

Four percent of drivers – the equivalent of around 1.7 million full driving licence holders in Great Britain – admit to driving without a seatbelt over the last 12 months, with around a fifth of these saying they don’t belt up at least half the time.

In contrast, seven percent of respondents admitted to not wearing a seatbelt when travelling as passengers in other vehicles. 

The law states there are only very few exceptions for not buckling up, including when deemed medically exempt or when reversing a vehicle.

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When it comes to what drivers believe could improve compliance with the existing law and help keep everyone safe, around half would like to see those caught sent on dedicated “seatbelt awareness courses”.

These would be akin to the sort of courses people have to attend if they are caught speeding.

More than a third favour either more police on the roads or the use of camera-based technology to catch people breaking the law in this way.

Simon Williams, RAC road safety spokesperson, said: “Forty years on from the introduction of what is undeniably one the most important road safety laws, it’s still the case that far too many people don’t wear seatbelts – something that’s a factor in around 30 percent of all road deaths each year. 

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“It’s also sadly the case that people are twice as likely to die in a crash if they’re not wearing one.

“The statistics are stark, yet some people are still prepared to take the risk and not wear a seatbelt. This obviously begs the question what can be done next.”

This comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was filmed not wearing a seatbelt in Lancashire, with the police issuing a fine.

Passengers caught failing to wear a seatbelt when one is available can be fined £100, which can increase to £500 if the case goes to court.

A new YouGov poll found that drivers were overwhelmingly in favour of harsher penalties for drivers caught without wearing a seatbelt.

New measures could see UK drivers caught not wearing a seatbelt penalised with penalty points instead of the usual £500 fine. The poll revealed that 81 percent of Britons surveyed backed the idea, with 52 percent strongly supporting it.

Ash Young, Managing Director at, said: “Something as simple as ensuring you and your passengers are wearing a seatbelt before you start your journey can save lives. Introducing penalty points could be the push needed to reduce the amount of people driving without a seatbelt and make the roads a safer place. 

“The £500 clearly isn’t enough, particularly for those 17 to 32-years-old who are the most likely not to wear a seatbelt according to the DfT report.” Number 10 said Mr Sunak “fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologised”.

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