Failure to wear a seatbelt could result in penalty points as well as fines, under new plans to reduce the number of deaths on the UK’s roads.
Increasing penalties for those who do not strap themselves in is being considered as one of the 74 actions to improve road safety published in July by the Department for Transport (DfT). Currently, offenders are given a £100 on-the-spot fine.
In 2017, 27 per cent of car deaths involved people that were not wearing a seatbelt – meaning one in four car deaths could have been prevented by belting up.
“The UK has some of the safest roads in the world, but we are not complacent and continue to look at how we can make them safer,” said transport secretary, Chris Grayling. “This action plan is a key milestone in our road safety work and sets out the important steps we are taking to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.”
The Department for Transport is also considering the report from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) on seatbelt use. This report analyses which drivers and passengers are least likely to wear seatbelts, what prompts their behaviour and which interventions would be best to reduce the number of casualties.
A Rural Road Users Advisory Panel will also be set up to explore how to boost road safety in rural areas, particularly improving roads and traffic signs, and issues around speed limits and enforcement.
The government said the action plan is designed to improve road safety for people. For young adults, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is developing a ‘behavioural change’ campaign designed to encourage learner-drivers to broaden their experience by using more rural roads and driving at night before taking their test.
In addition, research will look further at the benefits of introducing Graduated Driving Licensing on road safety.
For adults, the government will be investigating whether ‘alcolocks’ – devices which measure the alcohol in a driver’s breath and stop a vehicle from starting if that level is too high – can reduce drink-driving re-offending as part of rehabilitation programmes in the UK. PACTS has been given £50,000 to review drink-driving trends and interventions, which will be completed early next year.
There will also be a greater focus on roads policing, with a two-year project with the Home Office and National Police Chiefs’ Council looking to identify how policing can be improved.
The action plan builds on a number of projects in the Road Safety Statement, published in 2015, which saw increased enforcement for drug-driving, and doubling penalties for using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel.
In other road safety measures, the government is currently consulting on banning tyres aged 10 years and older from trucks, buses, coaches and minibuses (Trucking, September). If proposals are supported, new laws could be introduced later this year, ready to come into force early 2020.
A Road Collision Investigation project, with the RAC Foundation, is also ongoing. This is examining the cause of crashes and if there is a business case for a Road Collision Investigation Branch, which would specialise in learning lessons from serious road accidents.
DfT has also invested in the development of roadside breathalysers which, once finished, will enable suspected drink-drivers to be tested at the roadside, without having to go back to the police station for a test, and the reading can then be used in court.