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Posted on 01/07/16 |

The humble seat belt ….

Controversy was stirred recently when UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared in a video, recorded from the back seat of a moving vehicle for use on social media, with his seat belt conspicuously unfastened.

The three-point seatbelt is an enduring constant in the rapidly evolving interiors of our vehicles, and car occupants have now been legally required to wear one for 40 years – longer than many UK drivers have been alive.  Originally invented in Sweden and first adopted by Volvo, the invention’s proven track record of saving lives has led to it becoming as familiar and ubiquitous as the steering wheel.

IAM RoadSmart’s policy on seat belt use is straightforward:   seat belts have saved countless lives – plausibly numbering in the millions – since their introduction.  The risk of death or severe injury in a collision increases dramatically for anyone not wearing their seat belt.  That’s why it’s critical for drivers and passengers alike to ensure that their seatbelts are fastened.  Nobody is exempt from the danger that is present when driving or travelling as passenger in a moving vehicle.

In 2021, of all car occupant fatalities, 34% of males and 20% of females were not wearing a seatbelt.  17-29-year-olds were the worst offenders with 40% of fatalities not wearing a seatbelt.  Of all fatalities that occurred between 6pm and 8am, 47% of were not wearing a seatbelt.

Compare these figures to the far smaller portion of car occupants who are observed not wearing seat belts (usually between 10% and 5%), and it becomes clear how real the danger of driving without a seatbelt is.

There are exemptions from the legal requirement to wear a seat belt:- The law says…

When you don't need to wear a seat belt

You don’t need to wear a seat belt if you are:

  • a driver who is reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversing
  • in a vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue services
  • a passenger in a trade vehicle and you’re investigating a fault
  • driving a goods vehicle on deliveries that is travelling no more than 50 metres between stops
  • a licensed taxi driver who is ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers

Pregnancy and disability exemptions

If you fall into one of the above categories you are not exempt from wearing a seatbelt unless you have a specific exemption from a doctor on medical grounds.  You can also get an exemption for a medical condition.  For any of the above, you must get a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’ from your doctor and you have to keep this in your vehicle to show to the police if you’re stopped.  You’ll also need to tell your car insurer.

Grey most popular 5 years running

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that UK drivers simply cannot get enough of grey cars. For the fifth year in a row, grey has been the most popular colour, accounting for over one quarter (25.7%) of new cars sold in 2022

  • Grey25.7%
  • Black 20.1%
  • White 16.7%
  • Blue16.1%
  • Red8.5%
  • Silver 6.1%
  • Green 1.9%
  • Maroon, cream, pink1.5%
  • Orange, yellow, bronze and mauve3.4%

9 tips for sharing the road with cyclists

During the pandemic, we’ve seen more cyclists out on the road.  And with spring here, there will be more vulnerable road users making the most of the sunshine.  This week’s tips give advice on sharing the road with cyclists from IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman.

  1. Leave enough room. When riding or driving leave enough room between you and the cyclist, you never know when you have to stop and you want to make sure there is enough space in the event of anything unexpected happening.


  2. Police forces are enforcing 1.5 metres as the minimum passing width but the easiest way to remember is to treat the cyclist as you would a car. Give them space and treat 1.5 metres as a minimum.


  3. Don’t overtake a cyclist into a loss of vision as the car coming towards you would possibly cause you to move towards the cyclists. Look beyond the cyclist to develop your ability to get past, keeping distance of 1.5 metres width and two or three car lengths behind them. Remember, the closer you are, the more nervous the cyclist(s) will be which may result in them becoming unbalanced.


  4. Be careful when overtaking groups of cyclist and ensure you can see well ahead before attempting an overtake. If cyclists are in single file, bear in mind how long you will need to overtake them, and how far ahead the road needs to be clear, as you will not be able to filter in and out.


  5. The Highway Code (rule 212) states: “When passing motorcyclists and cyclists, give them plenty of room. If they look over their shoulder it could mean that they intend to pull out, turn right or change direction. Give them time and space to do so.”


  6. Ensure your view ahead is clear and visible before overtaking. Bear in mind that cyclists may need to move suddenly to avoid obstacles such as potholes and puddles (Highway Code rule 213). Being patient and paying attention to these details will help keep yourself and the cyclist safe on the road.


  7. During the pandemic, the Government has encouraged us to use different means of transport rather than public transport. Post lockdown, we will experience all types of cyclists; those who have just started out, families, people who have not been on a bike for years and more experienced cyclists. As motorists, we need to ensure we share the road and adapt our driving to keep vulnerable road users safe. 


  8. Take your time. Don’t lose your hair and lose your temper waiting for a cyclist on the road. Acting irrationally leads to unnecessary road rage and accidents that could be easy avoided.


  9. After parking, check for other road users by opening your door using the Dutch reach method; check your mirrors and reach across with your left hand. This encourages you to look over your shoulder and check your blind spot to see if it is safe to open the door:

Richard said: “Cycling has never been so popular and sharing the road safely is the key to ensuring we all get to enjoy the sunshine.  Cyclists don’t have a safety cell of metal, seatbelts and airbags around them so the onus has to be on the driver to look out for the most vulnerable on our roads.  Giving them a bit more time and a lot more space will make life easier for all of us."

60% of motorists consider self-driving cars a threat to road safety

A study from the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, has revealed that 60 per cent of motorists consider the growing ability of vehicles to drive themselves as a serious threat to road safety.  While female drivers (66 per cent) and drivers over the age of 70 (64 per cent) had even higher concerns.

This is despite well-documented evidence that most road incidents are actually caused by human error, suggesting that giving greater control to the vehicles themselves in the future might actually reduce the number of collisions.

However, while automated vehicle technology could have the power to improve road safety, this will only happen if the new systems are used correctly, including through driver training to understand their capabilities and limitations, believes the road safety charity.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy & Research, said: “Autonomous and automated vehicle technology is becoming an integral part of everyday motoring and while it does have the capacity to improve road safety, its capabilities must be fully understood to ensure we don’t over rely on them.

“Over reliance on these systems, and a lack of training on how to use them, could have a negative effect, with potentially worrying results for motorists and pedestrians alike.

“As an ever-increasing number of vehicle systems take on the tasks that drivers used to perform, IAM RoadSmart is calling for an understanding of automated features to be included in the UK driving test.”

According to government projections, 40 per cent of UK new car sales could have self-driving capabilities in less than 15 years. 

Meanwhile, advocates for a push towards autonomous vehicle technology also highlight the financial benefits to the UK economy, possibly almost worth £42 billion by 2035 together with the creation of nearly 40,000 British jobs.

Concerns still remain however around the high cost of research and development, making autonomous vehicles too expensive for some, together with possible malfunctions, data security issues and moral dilemmas as to what the vehicle should be programmed to protect.

Neil added: “Our research clearly shows that many motorists remain to be convinced about the safety of self-driving vehicles. While we wait for completely autonomous cars to take over from human drivers driver training will be paramount in ensuring that increasingly automated vehicles are an asset rather than a drawback.”

New research shows overwhelming support for 12-month minimum learning period for new drivers

New research conducted by IAM RoadSmart has found overwhelming support for a 12-month minimum learning period for new drivers before they are allowed to take the practical driving test.

In its in-depth survey of more than 2,000 motorists, the charity found that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) strongly backed the suggestion that all new drivers, regardless of age, should undergo at least a year’s training and supervised practice before being allowed to take their practical test.

And while the Government committed to investigating some form of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) in 2019, including the possibility of a 12-month minimum learning period as a key component, they have still not offered any firm conclusions.

IAM RoadSmart is therefore calling for urgent action on this issue. The charity, citing the evidence presented to the recent House of Commons Transport Committee Inquiry into Young and Novice Drivers along with the strong public support demonstrated in this latest study, says that a move to Graduated Driver Licensing is a crucial step forward in improved road safety.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy & Research, said: “The Government must listen to the concerns of the vast majority of motorists who clearly understand the long-term safety benefits that a 12-month minimum learning period for all new drivers would bring.

“A lifetime of safe driving starts by gaining the right experience behind the wheel.  Even the Government’s own statistics show that one in five new drivers crash within their first year on the road, so a longer learning period can only help make our roads safer for all road users.”

Meanwhile, the study found that around two-thirds (65 per cent) of people also support more encouragement for post-test training, believing that it would be beneficial for drivers to improve their skills through advanced driver training and testing. This rises to 71 per cent among drivers aged 17 to 49.

Neil added: “Lessons learnt at the start of your driving career can pay dividends and if new drivers had longer to experience all road types, in all weathers and at all times of the day and night before their test, the benefits can only increase.  Experienced license holders need to update their observation, anticipation and planning. 

Ed;  When I taught my daughters to drive, that’s exactly what we did.  Many hours, including starting off on a cold and frosty morning, which is very different to getting into a warm and cosy instructors car.  Day or night, rain or shine, snow and ice – get plenty of hours under the belt.