Opinion: Belt up and stop making excuses

By Guy Bird for Business Car, Jan 2008

A short but personal tale from a seat-belt wearing advocate…

A loud boom from my car’s engine compartment while in the fast lane of the motorway told me all was not well. Immediately after, my tiny supermini veered sharply to the right, dipping a wheel into the gravel close to the metal central reservation as it went. Hard-locking the car’s steering wheel left pulled the car out of the shingle but made the vehicle career across all three lanes of the M25. The last thing I remember was the high-speed impact of shattering the white picket fence that separated the busy road from the field below…

I came round 30 yards from the vehicle, vaguely sensing a tapping on my shoulder and looked up to see a lorry driver asking if I was all right. Apparently I managed to get out of the car myself – I have no memory of doing so ­ – or indeed of the car flying down the grassy bank and rolling repeatedly across a field before coming to rest in a crumpled mess some 100 yards from the elevated road.

On the way to the hospital, still concussed with two black eyes, a cut eyebrow and a chipped tooth, the ambulanceman told me I was ‘lucky to be alive’. Who’s says only doctors have a good bedside manner?

On the way to the hospital, still in a concussed state with two black eyes, a cut eyebrow and a chipped front tooth, the ambulance man told me I was ‘lucky to be alive’ – who’s says only doctors have a good bedside manner? – but I clearly was. What’s the point of this personal ‘Jackanory’? The suspected engine mechanical failure happened to me 13 years ago in a late-80s car with only seatbelts at its disposal. That simple belt undoubtedly saved my life, but 13 years on – as the 25th anniversary of the first seatbelt law being introduced is celebrated – there’s still evidence many car occupants are not heeding the long-pounded out message to wear them. To be fair, the latest Department of Transport figures for front seat driver and passenger wearing seat belts is actually pretty high – 94% for drivers and 93% for front seat passengers – but in the back only 70% of adults are buckling up.

More worryingly still, research unearthed by Roadsafe indicates that four groups are particularly resistant to seatbelt use: young men, rear passengers and – you guessed it – company drivers and goods vehicle drivers. The benefits of belting up are so obvious – the Dft reckons 60,000 lives have been saved since 1983 due to the law change – but just in case it helps, here’s a few more ‘killer facts’ that you, as a fleet manager, might want to point out to any suspected die-hard non-seatbelt wearers on your fleet:


  • 75% of passengers thrown from a car die. Unbelted occupants are 30 times more likely to be thrown from a car.
  • Up to 15 drivers and front seat passengers killed each year by the impact of an unbelted rear seat passenger.
  • Car safety features are tested assuming seatbelt use. Without a seatbelt, those features are not designed to work.
  • Once one person puts his or her seatbelt on, everyone else in the car is more likely to do so. Lead by example, even in the back.
  • Seatbelt wearing offences still carry a £500 maximum court conviction fine.


I’m with the Government on this one. Just belt up will you? Please?

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