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Failure to wear seat belts remains a challenge

14 March 2020

New PACTS report highlights the need for better evidence.

Noting that almost a third (31%) of the people who died in vehicles in Great Britain in 2018 were not wearing a seat belt, and following up from its report :The Forgotten Road Safety Priority PACTS has published a new report Seat Belts: Time for Action  using data obtained from specialist Police Forensic Collision Investigators (PFCIs)

The report also shows that seat belt status was known in 85% of fatalities where PFCI data was available compared to around 50% in Stats19 reports.

Key facts on the importance of seat belts can be found on The Road Safety Observatory which shows that recent research found they are 50% effective at preventing fatal injuries for drivers, 45% effective at preventing serious injuries and 25% effectives at preventing minor injuries was 25%. For front seat passengers, seat belts are 45% effective at preventing fatal injuries or serious injuries, and 20% effective at preventing minor injuries

In modern vehicles seat belts are part of a sophisticated restraint system which includes air bags, tensioners and other features, however these are only fully efficient if the belt is worn.

Seat belt reminder (SBR) systems can significantly increase seat belt wearing rates. A cross European study found that wearing rates were 97.5% in vehicles fitted with SBR and 85.5% in vehicles without. A study in the USA found that there were 2% fewer driver fatalities in vehicles fitted with SBR, after accounting for differences in vehicle age between cars with and without SBR.

The PACTS report adds further evidence to highlight the need to  establish whether there is a business case for putting more resource into the investigation of road crashes adopting the approaches used to collision investigation in other modes (Rail, Air & Sea) and safety critical industries (Oil & Gas). This is a question at the centre of a programme being delivered by the RAC Foundation.