Drivers and passengers who do not wear their seat belt must face stricter punishments, according to one road safety group.
The penalty for not wearing a seat belt when driving is currently a £100 fine, rising to £500 if you are taken to court. However, GEM Motoring Assist wants the Government to make it an endorsable offence, meaning points on the licence of any offender.
Currently, Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where you can be issued with points as well as a fine for failing to wear a seat belt.
GEM wants to see the same punishment extended to England, Scotland and Wales, and says such a move, which could have a significant impact on road casualties, is long overdue.
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. But figures for 2018 show that almost a third of people killed in car crashes were not wearing their seat belt.
GEM’s road safety officer Neil Worth pointed out that Northern Ireland has the lowest percentage of road deaths where a seat belt wasn’t work and said it was long overdue that the rest of the UK adopted the same stricter approach.
He said: “Three penalty points for non-wearing of seat belts creates an effective deterrent. New 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.
Drain on emergency resources
Mr Worth also urged drivers to ease the burden on the emergency services during the COVID-19 outbreak by ensure they were belted up.
He said: “As the nation gets to grips with the tough sanctions introduced to deal with coronavirus, we are asking everyone who needs to be out on the road to put that seat belt on, even for the shortest journeys.
“Failure to wear a seat belt puts you at much greater risk of being seriously hurt in a road collision. That drains NHS resources, which in the current climate is entirely unacceptable.”