A quarter of car occupants who die in road crashes aren’t wearing a seat belt, report finds

New research from AXA UK and the charity Brake has revealed that while 96% of drivers surveyed said they always wear a seat belt, in practice this may not always be the case. A quarter of car occupants who die in crashes on Britain’s roads are not wearing a seat belt, figure that rises to 41% for crashes that occur at night (6pm-8am).[i]

In 2023, 1,766 people died on UK roads and many more received serious, life-changing injuries that may have been prevented by wearing a seat belt.[ii]

The study also found that although drivers appear to have a good understanding of the safety benefits of seat belts and child seats for babies and children, there is a lack of knowledge about some of the other passive safety features in their cars. These include seat belt reminders and pre-tensioners, head restraints and load limiters, which are designed to reduce the risk of death and injury in the event of a crash.

The report – ‘Seat belts and passive safety systems’ – released this week by AXA UK and Brake, highlights concern for the small but significant proportion of drivers who don’t wear a seat belt on every journey, risking the safety of themselves, their passengers and other road users.

AXA UK and Brake are challenging the government to implement the EU General Safety Regulation which stipulates that seat belt reminders should be made mandatory for all seats in all vehicles – especially important for the 10% of drivers who say they occasionally forget to buckle up, compromising their own and others’ safety.

The report also includes a recommendation for a review of the archaic law that exempts taxi drivers from wearing a seat belt. Last reviewed in 1993, the law was originally introduced to prevent passengers from using a seat belt to trap a taxi driver to their seat in order to steal their cash. Many taxis now have a Perspex divider separating drivers from their passengers, and fare payment is largely cashless, so it’s time for this law to be reviewed.

While travelling in a taxi, around a fifth (21%) of those surveyed said they don’t always wear a seat belt, even though it is a legal requirement to wear one if available.

AXA UK and Brake are also calling for a new public awareness and education campaign to highlight the safety benefits of belting up on every single journey, with a specific focus on driving at night. While both organisations welcome the government’s new CLICK! campaign aimed at encouraging young male drivers to wear seat belts, there is a clear need for a wider campaign targeting all road users.

1. Department for Transport (2023) Reported road casualties Great Britain, annual report: 2022 and supporting data sets. Table RAS0711: Proportion of car occupant fatalities not wearing a seat belt

2. Department for Transport (2023) Reported road casualties Great Britain. Annual report 2022 and associated data sets


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