Health & Safety

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Van Drivers Seat Belt and Mobile Warning

21 November 2011

The findings of two reports published recently show that the main culprits for driving without a seatbelt and mobile phone use are van drivers and their passengers.

seat belt and mobile phone

The reports “Mobile Phone and Seat Belt Usage Rates by Drivers” from the London Road Safety Unit and “Car telephone use and road safety” from the European Commission reflect earlier RoSPA and DfT research.

The reports identified that only between 61% - 69% of van drivers and their passengers regularly wear a seatbelt. Some people simply forget to wear their belts or wrongly think they are exempt and need to be encouraged to get into the habit. Others may not feel they are necessary!

For mobile phone use by Drivers, the results showed that the proportion of drivers using mobile phones (either hand-held or hands-free) had increased although at least a greater proportion of drivers were using hands-free phones while driving, compared to a higher proportion using hand-held mobile phones in previous surveys.

Key Messages

  • Estimates indicate that considerable casualty savings could be achieved if more vehicle occupants wore seat belts and fewer drivers used mobile phones while driving.
  • Wearing a seatbelt is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your safety when travelling in a motor vehicle. Increased use of seat belts has been one of the major factors in road safety improvements in the UK. Seat belt wearing is estimated to save over 2000 lives every year. Since the first seatbelt law was introduced in 1983, 50,000 lives have been saved through motorists wearing them.
  • Despite this, there is a persistent minority of road users who continue to ignore the rules and advice, putting themselves and others at risk of being killed or seriously injured. If everyone followed basic rules and advice we could see a significant reduction in deaths and serious injuries.


  • In January 1983 the use of seat belts by car and van drivers and front seat passengers was made compulsory in the UK in order to reduce the number and severity of casualties in collisions.
  • In 1991 the use of seat belts for rear seat passengers was made compulsory in the UK where belts were available.
  • In 2003 the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving was banned in the UK .
  • In September 2006 a new regulation was introduced requiring drivers to ensure that any child travelling in their vehicle uses an appropriate type of restraint.
  • In February 2007 the penalties for using a hand-held phone increased to three penalty points and the fine was doubled to £60.

Survey Results - Seat Belts

  • Car Drivers wearing Seat Belts - London 89% National 92%
  • Van Drivers Wearing Seat Belts - London 61% National 69%

Royal Mail Drivers

There is no Seat Belt exemption for Royal Mail drivers whatsoever, and contrary to some peoples’ opinions there is no exemption for short trip collection or delivery drivers

The only time a Driver is exempt from wearing a seat belt if you're:

  • 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

A doctor will issue a 'Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing' if they decide that an individual under certain medical circumstances may be exempted from wearing a seat belt on medical grounds.

Effects on Driving Performance


Seatbelts save 2000 lives a year. A driver is twice as likely to die in a crash if they don’t wear a seat belt. Seat belts reduce the risk of dying in a 30mph crash by 60 per cent. Every day someone dies because they do not think they always need to use a seat belt. This tragic waste could be avoided if everyone took the simple step of belting up every time they got in a vehicle. That's why the DfT run hard-hitting campaigns which highlight the injuries drivers are likely to receive if they are involved in a collision when not using a seatbelt – even at low speeds. These campaigns, along with the fixed penalty fines for not using a seatbelt are aimed at fewer people needlessly getting killed on our roads.

Mobile Phones

Research shows that using a car telephone while driving distracts the driver and causes driving behaviour which adversely affects road safety. While hands-free phones and other devices, such as speed dialling and voice activation reduce physical distraction, the most important negative factor associated with using a mobile phone while driving, whether hands-free or hand-held, is diversion of attention from driving to the conversation itself. The extent of the negative effects of telephone use while driving depends on the complexity of both the conversation and the driving situation.

Driver reaction times are 30% slower when telephoning while driving than driving whilst over the Legal Alcohol limit and 50% slower than under normal driving conditions. Texting while driving basically doubles a driver's reaction time and makes the driver less able to respond to sudden roadway dangers, if a vehicle were to make a sudden stop in front of them or if a child was to run across the road."

Motoring Offences

Seat Belt Offence Penalties:

If you fail to wear a seatbelt, you could face:

  • A £500 fine If the case goes to court.
  • A fixed penalty £60 fine.
  • No penalty points will be endorsed on the drivers licence.

Mobile Phone Offence Penalties

It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone or a device for sending or receiving data while driving. This includes Blackberry and PDA devices if they have a mobile phone built-in. If you use a handheld mobile phone or similar device while driving, you could face:

  • A fixed penalty £60 fine.
  • Three penalty points on your driving licence.
  • Higher insurance costs.
  • A £1,000 fine.

If the case goes to court, you could face:

  • Discretionary disqualification.

The above penalties apply if you are distracted and not in proper control of the vehicle when using a hands free phone or similar device.


  • If you call someone on their mobile phone and they turn out to be driving, please hang up and call them when they’re not driving.
  • If you drive as part of your work and need to use the phone for work, put your phone on voicemail and listen to messages when you are safely parked.
  • You can call 999 or 112 if there is a genuine emergency where it is unsafe or impractical to stop.
  • You can use a phone when safely parked, and when you are a passenger.
  • Wear your seat belt at all times