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1983: British drivers ordered to belt up

Drivers and front seat passengers must wear seatbelts under a new law which came into force at midnight.

The Department of Transport says 30,000 people a year are killed or seriously injured in road accidents. It hopes the compulsory wearing of front seatbelts will save 1,000 lives a year.

Evidence suggests six out of 10 drivers currently ignore advice to belt up in the front.

Police are being urged to take a softly softly approach to start with - but drivers could eventually be fined 50 for not wearing their seatbelts.

Resisting the belt

The row over making front seatbelts compulsory has been going on for 15 years and there have been 11 previous attempts to make it law.

Critics have accused the government of operating a nanny state and some drivers have complained their personal freedom is being infringed and they find seatbelts uncomfortable.

The government has been urging drivers to check the position of their seatbelts and make the necessary adjustments before today's law came into effect.

Junior Transport Minister Linda Chalker said: "Nobody likes being told to do something when they haven't seen for themselves the sense of it.

"You can remain in control of a vehicle when you don't get knocked out. If you are held in your seat by a belt you have more chance of stopping your vehicle careering into another vehicle containing other people."

She dismissed claims some people would suffer worse injuries through belting up, saying the evidence suggested only a tiny proportion of front seat passengers would suffer worse injuries if they were restrained by seat belts.

There will be some exceptions to the new law. Taxi drivers will be exempt because of the possible threat to their safety from dangerous passengers. Drivers of electric delivery vehicles such as milk floats will also be exempt.

In Context
Figures showed 90% of front-seat passengers began routinely wearing seat belts after it became compulsory.

In 1991 it became compulsory for adults to belt up in the back seat. Figures showed an increase from 10% to 40% of backseat passengers wearing seatbelts

Research in 1998 showed 160 lives could be saved a year through belting up in the back - this included 40 drivers or front-seat passengers killed by an unbelted passenger in the back.

A high-profile advertising campaign, launched in July 1998, showed a mother being killed in a car when she was hit from behind by her unbelted child.

Figures for October 2000 showed the wearing of rear seatbelts had increased to 59% of adults and 91% of children.


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