12th October 2022

Seat Belt Laws and Classic Cars

It has been a legal requirement for seat belts to be worn since 1983. However, new regulations were put in place in 2006, meaning various changes were introduced. Changes were particularly made in relation to children.

So, Who Must Wear A Seat Belt?

Children under the age of three cannot travel in a car that doesn’t have seat belts, or appropriate child restraints installed. Children up to 135cm tall (or 12 years old) must wear the correct child restraint, such as a booster seat.

If child restraints are not available in an instance, for example, you are in a taxi, the children must use an adult seat belt. If a seat belt is not available, children between 3 and 12 years old (or 135cm tall) may travel unrestrained.

The driver is responsible for ensuring all passengers aged 13 and below (or over 135cm in height) comply with the rules and wear their seatbelt.

However, passengers aged 14 and above must take responsibility for their own safety and ensure they are wearing a seatbelt if fitted.

A fine of up to £500 can be given to a driver or passenger for violating the seat belt laws. Although it is more likely that the police will issue a fixed penalty notice, with a fine of £100.

The definitive answer to our previous question is: everyone must wear a seat belt. If seat belts/child restraints are fitted, they must be worn.

Are There Any Exceptions?

There are very few exceptions to seat belt laws. One is when a driver is reversing, as they may need to position themselves better in order to get a better view. A supervisor watching a learner reverse may also undo their seat belt.

Another exception is when you are told not to wear a seat belt for medical reasons by a doctor. In this case, the doctor will issue a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’. You must ensure you keep this in your vehicle at all times, so that you can show it to the police if you are stopped.

Here are a few other exceptions:

  • A vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue services
  • Passengers in a trade vehicle when investigating a fault
  • Licensed taxi drivers who are ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers
  • Travelling no more than 50 metres between stops on deliveries in a goods vehicle

Until 1966, cars were often made without seat belts. Many manufacturers offered seat belts as extras to the car.

Therefore, if you own a classic car and no seat belts are fitted as standard, you have no legal obligation to have them fitted.

However, you should bear in mind that children under 3 years old will not be able to travel in your vehicle. Children over 3 years of age are only allowed to sit in the back seats.

Another question you must ask yourself is - will this affect your classic car insurance? This is something you should enquire about with your insurance company. Each company will have their own regulations, so make sure you ask first. You might even find that it’ll save money in the long run by buying seat belts.

Let us know about your experiences with the seat belt laws by emailing news.views@footmanjames.co.uk

Get real and move into the new way of safety for everyone you are not the only one that matters.

Topcat, 03/11/2022

In the '60s as a 16-year-old, I prepared & raced a Jowett Javelin. This included installing a homemade roll cage & seat belt. On the day I crashed & destroyed it, including rolling end over end, I got out unscathed. I am totally convinced that seatbelts are essential & that efficient installation isn't rocket science. I have front seat belts in my Series 2 Morris Minor

Roger, 03/11/2022

I have a very early Ford Mustang which was built in June 1964 although the date of first registration wasn't until 1965. The car has no seat belt fixing points. I have considered the possibility of fitting seat belts but as has already been mentioned in other comments on here, would the seat belt fixings hold in an impact or would they pull out of the bodywork? There is no knowing. It is an interesting question as years ago now I used to rally Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts. Those cars had full racing harnesses fitted but were never originally designed to accommodate full harnesses. It was a case of fitting huge backing plates at the fixing points in an attempt to stop the bolts from pulling through what is quite thin metal. Very fortunately these full harnesses were never actually put to the test but looking back I now wonder if they would have held. Motor vehicle manufacturers do extensive testing of vehicle design and safety, often testing to destruction. The same testing cannot be achieved with DIY-fitted seat belts. So on balance, I think that if the vehicle was never designed to accommodate seat belts then don't try to fit them. They may give a false sense of security and may actually be more dangerous than not having any seat belts at all.

MustangMan, 03/11/2022