The Importance of Wearing a Seatbelt

Save_Yourself_seatbelt_bannerHere’s a bit of history……

Can you remember when cars didn’t have seat belts?

The Department for Transport have been promoting the use of seat belts since 1973, long before it became compulsory by law to use one. Then in 1983, front seat belt wearing regulations for drivers and passengers (both adult and children) came into force. In 1989, wearing rear seat belts became compulsory for children under 14, and in 1991, it became compulsory for all adults to wear seat belts in the back of a car.

Any driver under the age of 30 will not even remember the change – they should have been wearing a seat belt from the moment they first sat in a car as a passenger.

The Evidence ……

Seat belts can mean the difference between life and death in a car crash. Wearing a seat belt every time you enter a vehicle is not only the smart thing to do, but it is the right thing to do because it saves lives. Seat belts are designed to keep people in their seats, and so prevent or reduce injuries suffered in a crash. They ensure that as little contact as possible is made between the occupant and vehicle interior and significantly reduce the risk of being thrown from a vehicle.

The Facts

  • In a crash you are twice as likely to die if you are not wearing a seatbelt.
  • Drivers and passengers aged 17-34 have the lowest seatbelt-wearing rates combined with the highest crash rates.
  • There is evidence that people are less likely to use seatbelts on short or familiar journeys – this puts them at serious risk of injury in a crash.
  • Seatbelts reduce the risk of death in the event of a collision by around 50%.

The Law

The law is quite clear on this subject. You must wear a seat belt every time you travel by car no matter where you sit in the car or how far you travel. If not, both the driver and passengers who are caught with no seatbelts (in the front or the back) are breaking the law and face an on-the-spot fine, and the risk of prosecution.

Just to make things even clearer, it is the responsibility of the adult passenger (not the driver) to make sure that they are using the seatbelt! For children under 14 years old it is the responsibility of the driver to make sure that they are wearing their seatbelts…however once the child is 14 years old it is up to logo-2013-webthem as passengers to take responsibility for wearing a seatbelt (although I’m sure a gentle reminder from the driver wouldn’t go amiss!).

Of course, there are (as always) a few exceptions* to the law. You’ll have to scroll down for these.

The excuses…..

We have all heard the excuses before, “Seatbelts are uncomfortable”, “I’m only going around the corner”, “I’d rather be thrown out of a car than be stuck in a seatbelt”, “I know these roads like the back of my hands” and, “I’m a good driver I don’t need to wear one”. NONE of these excuses are valid, the consequences are the same.

The majority of drivers would never dream of getting behind the wheel without a seatbelt on. You may be a good driver, but there are situations beyond your control that contribute towards a crash, such as bad weather, road conditions and the behaviour of other drivers or road users.

For those people who use the excuse that “I’m just going around the corner”, they need to know that 80% of traffic fatalities occur within a 25-mile radius of your home and at a speed of 40 miles an hour. Buckling up to drive around the block is probably one of the most important times to do so.

Is this happening in your neighbourhood…?

A recent survey was undertaken in and around a busy school in Leeds. The purpose was to observe and record how many people were or were not wearing a seat belt in the vehicles, the survey included drivers and passengers.

The traffic that was coming in and out of the school vicinity was monitored at various times during the day. School started at 9.00 a.m., and the road outside the school was very busy with lots of late arrivals dropping off at the school gates. There was also a high volume of local traffic along the road on which the school is located. The table below shows the results:

Time Not wearing Wearing
8.20 a.m. – 8.50 a.m. 31 207
8.50 a.m. – 9.05 a.m. 20 140
2.55 p.m. – 3.30 p.m. 51 190

This highlights just how prevalent not wearing a seatbelt was. It’s quite shocking to see that during the morning school run and in a period of less than 60 minutes, almost 13% of car occupants were NOT wearing their seat belts. Then, during the afternoon school run (only 35 minutes) over one fifth of car occupants were seen NOT wearing their seatbelts.

Final thought

This location has not been identified in order to highlight how easy it is for people to be seen not wearing their seatbelt and to remind people that all it takes is for the police to be undertaking a similar observation. You could then face a fine and/or prosecution. Or an even worse scenario – you could be involved in a road traffic collision and as stated previously the outcome isn’t that great for you or your passengers.

Evidence clearly shows that seatbelts DO save your life in a crash and can reduce your risk of a serious injury. Seatbelts keep drivers and passengers from being ejected through windows or doors. This is important because your chances of being killed are five times greater if you are thrown from the vehicle.

People DO die unnecessarily in car crashes every year, but some might still be alive today if they had only been wearing their seat belts. Everyone knows that car crashes can cause death; yet because people DO NOT buckle up, they are still willing to take the chance with their lives and that of their passengers.

The key message we are trying to get across is that wearing a seatbelt really could mean the difference between life and death – and that applies just as much to passengers as it does to drivers. seatbelt 1Putting a seatbelt on is a quick and simple task, and a very effective way of reducing the consequences of a collision. That’s why wearing a seatbelt is not a matter of personal choice, but is compulsory for drivers and passengers in every European country.


Child car seats: the law

Seat Belts: Advice and Information Fact Sheet

Think video

Think video

* Exceptions to the law:

There are a few exceptions to the seatbelt law.

You don’t need to wear a seatbelt if you are a:

  • A driver who is reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversing
  • In a vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue services
  • A passenger in a trade vehicle and you are investigating a fault
  • Driving a goods vehicle on deliveries that is travelling no more than 50 metres
  • A licensed taxi driver who is ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers.

There may also be certain medical conditions that stop you from wearing a seatbelt, but your doctor must provide you with a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’. You must keep this in your vehicle at all times and show it if you are stopped. You will also need to inform your car insurance provider.

You must wear a seat belt if you’re pregnant, or disabled unless your doctor says you don’t have to for medical reasons. You may need to adapt your vehicle, in some cases.

Follow this link for Medical exemption advice on wearing a seatbelt.



School Gate parking – then and now

Looking back 30+ years to when I was at school I don’t think I ever recalled hearing the words ‘School Gate Parking’! If you needed to go somewhere 30 years ago, you had to send messages from your brain down to your legs, then your legs engaged in a motion-based phenomenon known as ‘walking’. Seriously it’s true!

Walking to school was the ‘norm’. I don’t recall many of my friends’ parents owning a car and those that did never used it to take their kids to school. The school run was 70e8a76fef6d6f033301b4d1a53190e1--rainy-weather-rainy-daysliterally that, we raced to school with our parents walking close behind. It was a time for building those social and community relationships that centred on us (the kids), and it allowed our parents to get to know the parents of other kids that we played with. Walking to school happened no matter what the weather was like outside. We all had wellies and indoor shoes, so even running through puddles was allowed.

Fast forward a fair few years and how things have changed. The kids have now grown up and are parents themselves, and walking to school is a distant memory. Many modern day parents don’t feel that walking to school is the safest option. We want to protect our children from the dangers around us and often feel that by driving to school will keep ‘our’ kids safe. As well as perceived safety, there are many other reasons why you may choose to drive the kids to school, including distance, the weather, and general busy lives.

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‘School gate parking’ is a phrase that today’s parents will hear frequently. Some choose to listen to the issues and take notice. Others turn a blind eye and think ‘Well I’m a safe driver and taking my kids to school by car is the best option for me’. However, inconsiderate and illegal parking causes a major issue around many of our schools, not just in Leeds but across the UK. Nevertheless, many parents still take the view that by driving their children to school they are keeping them safe.

But when you stop to think about the knock on effect of all these extra vehicles being in a small space at the same time it’s actually making the school gate parkingschool run more dangerous with the increase in vehicle traffic and congestion around the school gate. With so many parents making the decision to drive, the school ‘rush hour’ is now creating an unsafe environment.

By being dropped off right outside the school door, many children are also missing out on the opportunity to develop vital road safety skills with their parents on their way to school. They fail to learn the ability to manage risk or build up confidence walking around their local community. Not only that, but parents are missing out on the social side of the school run, on building relationships with other parents, as well as the all-important health benefits which come with being active.

As parents our main concern is the health and wellbeing of our children. The government currently recommends that children should be physically active for 60 minutes per day. Schools have to provide 30 minutes of activity during the day, with parents making up the other 30 minutes. This could easily be done by including an wrist band challengeactive commute to and from school. In October 2017 a new activity challenge was set up that saw primary schools across Leeds getting ready to boost their pupils’ motivation for physical activity, by launching a new competitive wristband challenge in partnership with Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Active Schools. Follow this link for more information – new wristband challenge

Let’s not forget that there are many other benefits of walking to school. It can improve overall fitness levels in children and adults which will reduce the risk of obesity and related lifestyle diseases later in life. active travelIt’s a cheap, low impact way to exercise, without ever having to walk through the gym doors, and think of the cost benefits (i.e. fuel) of not driving to school vs the health benefits of getting active. Another added advantage of not dropping off right outside the school gate is that you’ll be avoiding the stress of finding a car park space and no longer adding to the congestion around the school, therefore improving air quality for our kids.

If you would like to read more about the benefits of having an active commute, here’s a short article by Sustrans.

At the end of the day, whether to walk or drive your child to school is the choice of the parent. But the school gate isn’t the only parking spot. Here are a few tips for what you could to get your family out of the car and make the school run more active and enjoyable:

  • Park and Stride – Follow this link for tips on how to plan a Park and Stride
  • Scoot or cycle to school
  • Plan ahead and meet up with other parents on route
  • If you live too far away from school, ask parents who live closer if you could park at their house and walk in together
  • Ask your school about setting up a walking bus
  • Have a welly walk on rainy days
  • Take small steps – start by swapping a few car journeys a week to walking, scooting or cycling and build up from there
  • Try something different each week to help you consider your options – until you’ve tried an alternative method of getting to school how will you know you like it? After all, isn’t that what we tell our children about eating veg?


Commuting in Winter

Winter! You either love it or hate it. Chances are, even if you don’t travel to work first thing in the morning, there will still be times when the weather will impact on your journey in one way or another.

For those of us who commute to work by car, driving in bad weather is one of those things that we have to put up with. But there’s nothing worse than that feeling of despair as you step outside on a cold morning to find your car is covered in ice or snow. Defrosting your car is a must, and whether you choose to scrape or spray it can take 5-10 minutes, making your usual journey time much longer. Then, there’s the rain and wind! If it’s chucking it down or blowing a gale, you just know that this is going to add time to your travels. Not to mention it messing up your hair up or getting your work clothes damp even before the day begins.

With the unpredictable conditions of winter now well under way, we @SaferRoadsLeeds have a few tips on how to stay safe and make your commute less stressful in the winter months:

Check the weather the night before

This seems like common sense, but do you check the weather forecast before heading to bed? We know that weather can change rapidly, especially in winter, so it makes sense to prepare and have some idea about what the conditions will be like in the morning. Follow this link for updates on the weather forecast: If the forecast is for snow or ice, start getting prepared the night before. Do you know where your scraper is? What about your hat and gloves or some shoes that have a good grip on them? And most important of all, give yourself more time.

Car Checks

Do you make DIY car checks part of your routine? There are simple checks you can Winter 1do yourself before long journeys or journeys in bad weather to keep your car in good working order. Make it a habit to check the wiper blades for wear and tear and don’t forget that ever diminishing screen wash – Winter 2how many times has it run out when you most need it? There’s nothing more dangerous than not being able to see out of your windscreen when it’s splattered with dirty spray.

Give yourself time

This sounds easier said than done when the mornings are cold and dark but set your alarm 10 – 15 mins earlier and give yourself extra time to defrost the ice and mist from your windows. And make sure you clear all your windows, not just the windscreen, as you do need them all to be safe on the road! As a bonus, if the weather isn’t that bad you can make your lunch or have a cuppa before setting off or just get to your destination earlier.

Check your tyres

winter 3Now, our poor tyres often get overlooked until we end up with a puncture or its MOT time again, when in fact they should get more attention as they are the only parts of the car which are in contact with the road. Safety in acceleration, braking, steering and cornering all depend on a relatively small area of road contact. This alone means that tyres should be maintained in good condition at all times and should be appropriate for the expected road conditions. Watch this video on the importance of tyre safety.

In wet and windy weather

winter 4Hearing the rain on the windows as you wake up tells you that your journey isn’t going to be simple, you don’t even have to get out of bed to know this! Rain does something to the way people drive, when in reality it’s pretty simple – just slow down and leave a bigger gap between you and the car in front of you. The highway code says that stopping distances in wet weather will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads. This is because your tyres have less grip on the road. Keeping well back from the vehicle in front will also increase your ability to see and plan ahead. You don’t even have to get your hands cold, wet or dirty for this safety tip!

Wind is very unpredictable – big gusts catch you unaware as you tootle along Winter 5thinking about what’s for tea. There are certain places which are more risky than others – take extra care passing over bridges or on open, exposed stretches of road. If your vehicle is being blown about, slow right down and take great care to maintain a steady course. Keep well back from motorcycles and high-sided vehicles as they can be particularly affected by turbulence.


Even if you’re a confident and experienced driver, driving in fog can be difficult and dangerous. And if you’re not, driving in such reduced visibility can be a deeply winter 6unnerving prospect.

All cars come with rear fog lamps – it’s a legal requirement – so yours does have them fitted. Do you know how to turn them on and off? If not, make sure you find out at the earliest possible opportunity. You don’t want to be scrabbling around trying to find a switch just as the fog thickens up.

And don’t be tempted to speed up suddenly if fog seems to have cleared. Fog can be patchy and you may suddenly re-enter it. Follow this link for more advice on travelling in fog.

And don’t forget snow….

How can we forget snow? We loved to play in it as kids and it can bring back many happy childhood memories. That is, until we have to think about driving in it, when it changes from the nice, fluffy stuff to something that causes endless problems.

Winter 7The tip is simple – when it snows, take it slow. If you do get caught in bad weather, slow right down. If visibility is poor or the road is wet or icy, it will take you longer to stop, so reduce your speed accordingly. When driving in snow, accelerate gently, using low revs. To avoid skidding, try pulling away in second gear, and avoid braking suddenly, which could lock up your wheels. As well as taking it slow, give yourself more space on the road – you may need 10 times the normal gap between you and the car in front.

And after all that – there’s always the sun!!!

Winter sun is a lovely sight, it brightens up the gloomy skies and gives us a break from the grey wet days. But (yes of course there’s a but!) Winter 8winter sun brings its own hazards: even if it’s a welcome break from the wet and cold weather it will dazzle us from its low position in the sky. Keep a pair of sunglasses in your vehicle all year round (prescription if needed) and keep your windscreen clean. Wear your sunglasses in bright sunshine, especially if the sun is low or reflecting off a wet road.

On a final note

No matter what time of day you travel, the winter weather can change in a moment. We @SaferRoadsLeeds are just asking that you be extra vigilant whilst driving, no matter what the conditions are. Look out for signs warning of hazards, adverse conditions or temporary lower speed limits and be aware that there will be vulnerable road users, such as people on foot, bicycles, motorbikes and horses who are harder to spot in bad weather. Drive slowly and cautiously so you’re able to react in plenty of time and not put yourself or others in danger.

Happy driving and stay safe.

To tweet or to retweet. Safer Roads Leeds – Who are we?

Safer Roads Leeds belongs to Leeds City Council’s Influencing Travel Behaviour (ITB) team. We decided that we needed our own space and identity, a.k.a @SaferRoadsLeeds, which means that we are able to identify our target audience and reach those that we really want to with our tweets. Using Twitter enables us to use our personalities to engage with people and to take part in conversations in order to get our messages out there and to the right audience. Bingo!5

The ITB team focuses on promoting and supporting safe and sustainable travel choices throughout Leeds. 4We work closely with schools, community groups, businesses and other partners such as the Police and Fire Service. Our work is important in developing key road safety skills for our children, as well as working with other vulnerable road users to keep them safe whilst out and about, through education, training and publicity. We also encourage and support all road users to choose sustainable travel, whether the journey is to school, to work or for leisure.

Using social media is a popular way of sharing key messages with a wider audience.  3These messages may trigger people to make small changes which they had not realised they needed to  e.g. slowing down in adverse weather conditions or looking out more carefully during the school holidays when more children are out and about. Being part of the twitter community provides instant, up-to-date messages which often offer links to information. It also allows for reader interaction, plus it’s free.

6Our aim is to open up the world of road safety and sustainable travel, to let people see what work we do other than digging up roads (which of course isn’t always us), or gritting streets in winter. 2Our team wants engagement with the public, we want to know what we can do to support community safety and promote safe and sustainable transport, which can enhance the health and wellbeing of your family and wider social networks.

Our place on Twitter is essential for what we do. In these times of saving money, social 9media is seen as a great alternative where we can improve communication between ‘everyone’ (yes, that’s a lot of people) who plays a role in keeping our localities a safe place to live and be part of. So it makes sense that we utilise this opportunity not only to shout about what we do but also to promote campaigns via tweeting or retweeting and to share information with others who have the same motive.1

Our tweets are simple – they range from updates about what we are getting up to, to random (but important) musings about current and significant information regarding ways to keep safe whilst out and about on our roads, no matter how you choose to travel.