In a briefing released today, PACTS shows that:

  • 30% of people who died in cars in 2021 were not wearing a seat belt – the highest percentage since modern records began. This amounts to over 200 deaths and many more serious injuries.
  • Wearing a seat belt halves the chances of dying in collision. It remains the bedrock of occupant protection, even in modern cars with airbags etc.
  • Failure to wear a seat belt incurs no penalty points – unlike the other Fatal Four safety offences (speeding, mobile phone use, drink and drug driving).

For the past three years, PACTS has been drawing attention to this blind spot in government road safety policy. The 2021 data suggest the issue is getting worse, exacerbated by cuts to roads policing. While the government has acknowledged the situation it has failed to act.

PACTS has recommended a package of actions, including increased penalties, more use of cameras, increased roads policing, more effective seat belt reminders and better driver education.

David Davies, PACTS Executive Director, said: “Over 200 people died in cars last year when not wearing a seat belt. A seat belt halves the probability of death in a crash – but only if it is worn. In national Road Safety Week, PACTS is calling on the government to act to increase seat belt wearing rates and reduce unnecessary death and injury.

“Seat belt wearing has been a legal requirement for 40 years and one of the most important safety measures. It is ridiculous that the government has dithered for so long over introducing penalty points. There is a new generation of cameras that detect seat belt offences. Penalty points are urgently needed to back them up.“

Mary Williams, chief executive of Brake, said: “Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce your risk of death and injury in a crash, yet many people still choose not to wear one, as this PACTS report highlights, with appalling consequences. Road crashes are horrific events that devastate families, and we see this first-hand through the work of our National Road Victim Service which supports many hundreds of families affected by road death and injury every year.

“This Road Safety Week we urge everyone who uses roads to do so safely, to protect themselves and others. If you are a driver, please belt up before every journey and make sure that everyone who travels with you does the same. Children should be belted up in a correctly sized and fitted child seat until they are 150cm tall.”