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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

Using a seat belt

You must wear a seat belt if one is fitted in the seat you’re using. But you need to wear your seat belt correctly for it to work properly in a crash. Find out when you must wear a seat belt and how it should be worn.

Who needs to wear a seat belt

THINK! Always wear a seat belt

You’re twice as likely to die in a crash if you don’t wear a seat belt

You must wear a seat belt if one is fitted in any seat in any vehicle. There are few exceptions.

When you’re driving, you must only carry one person in each seat fitted with a seat belt. Anyone travelling in the vehicle aged 14 years and above is responsible for wearing their seat belt.

Children must use the correct car seat for their weight until they reach 135 centimetres tall or their 12th birthday, whichever comes first. See ‘When your child needs a car seat' for more information.

When you don't need to wear a seat belt

You don't need to wear 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

Medical exemptions from wearing a seat belt

Your doctor may decide that you may be exempted from wearing a seat belt on medical grounds. If so, they will issue a 'Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing', which you must:

  • keep in your vehicle
  • show to the police if you're stopped

You’ll need to tell your car insurer that you're travelling without a seat belt.

For more information about medical exemptions, contact your doctor. You can download a leaflet from the link below to take to your doctor.

Wearing your seat belt correctly

A seat belt won't work properly in a crash if it’s put around two people, as they would be crushed together, resulting in serious injuries

To protect you in a crash, your seat belt needs to be adjusted so that:

  • it sits as close to your body as possible, without any slack or twisting in the straps
  • the shoulder belt lies across your chest and over your shoulder, away from your neck
  • the lap belt goes as low as possible from hip bone to hip bone - not across your stomach

If your seat belt is uncomfortable, check the vehicle manufacturer's advice about how to adjust it. Don't use padding, cushions or mats.

Using seat belts with frontal airbags

Airbags are designed to be used with seat belts, but in a crash they can cause an injury if you're sitting too close. You should:

  • allow at least a 25-centimetre gap between your breastbone and the dashboard or centre of the steering wheel
  • only use a rear-facing child car seat on a seat with a frontal airbag if the airbag has been deactivated

Adjust your head rest when adjusting your seat belt

Make sure you also adjust the head rests in the front and back seats to prevent a whiplash injury in a crash. The top of the head rest should be level with the top of your ears and as close as possible to your head.

Wearing a seat belt while pregnant

In an accident, a seat belt reduces the risk of injury to your unborn child by up to 70 per cent

You must wear a seat belt if you're pregnant, unless your doctor certifies that you're exempt on medical grounds.

You’ll need to take extra care adjusting your seat belt. You'll be safer and more comfortable if you wear the:

  • diagonal strap between your breasts, moving it around the side of your bump
  • lap strap as low as possible across your hips and under your bump – if it goes over your belly button, it's too high

If you’re driving and need to make room for your bump, don’t put your seat where you can’t reach the clutch, brake and accelerator. This could affect your reaction times when driving. Check your mirrors are still in the right place as you move the seat.

Wearing a seat belt if you're disabled

You must wear a seat belt if you’re a disabled driver or passenger, unless you’re exempt on medical grounds. You may need a specially adapted belt.

See ‘Adapting your vehicle’ for more information.

If your vehicle has no seat belts

You can't carry any children under three years old in vehicles without seatbelts, like classic cars. If you're travelling with children over three years old, they must only sit in the back seats.

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