At the moment drivers in England, Scotland and Wales can be fined for failing to belt up but there have long been calls to make the action an endorsable offence as well.
The proposed change comes amid fears of a drop in compliance with seatbelt laws.
Official figures show that in 2019 almost a quarter – 23 per cent – of all car occupants killed in crashes were not wearing seatbelts. That’s up from 19 per cent in 2013. However, separate data collated directly from police forensic collision investigators suggests the real numbers could be even higher.
Figures obtained by insurer Direct Line via the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts) from specialist crash investigators suggest as many as 31 per cent of fatal crash victims in 2018 were not wearing seatbelts, compared with an official government figure of 26 per cent. This data also echoed the rising level of fatalities.
David Davies, executive director of Pacts, said that the current fine was not enough of a deterrent to those ignoring the law. He commented: “Seatbelts are a great success story but the job is not yet done. The £100 fine does not emphasise to drivers the seriousness of the risk.”
Currently, drivers can be fined £100 for not wearing a seatbelt, rising to £500 if they are taken to court. Only drivers in Northern Ireland can be given penalty points for failing to wear a seatbelt.
Introducing the same punishment in the rest of the UK was proposed in a government road safety action plan in 2019 but hasn’t been pursued. Now, it is set to be examined again as part of a wider safety strategy that will look to promote cycling and walking as well as committing to a wider road safety plan.
Neil Worth, from GEM Motoring Assist has previously campaigned for harsher penalties for seatbelt offences. He said: “Three penalty points for non-wearing of seat belts creates an effective deterrent. Research shows that Northern Ireland, where the penalty for not wearing a seat belt includes three points, has the lowest percentage of deaths where a seat belt was not used of any UK nation.
“We have seen mobile phone penalties for drivers rise in recent years, and if seat belt offences were made harsher in this way, we believe we would see a significant and immediate reduction in the number of drivers and vehicle occupants killed and seriously injured on our roads.
Wearing a seat belt has been compulsory in the UK for drivers and front seat passengers since 1983 and for rear seat passengers since 1991.