Nearly one-quarter of drivers believe punishments for not wearing a seatbelt are too lenient, a new survey suggests on the 40th anniversary of the first “clunk-click” law.
Some 24 per cent of 1,800 UK motorists polled for the RAC said the existing maximum penalty in Britain of a £500 fine is not strong enough.
Earlier this month, prime minister Rishi Sunak was fined by police for taking off his seatbelt to film a social media video in a moving car.
Sunak said sorry for making an “error of judgment” while recording a message for Instagram from the back of an official government car.
More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of those people think offenders should receive at least three points on their licence as well as a fine.
Drivers can lose their licence if they get 12 or more points within three years.
The poll indicated that 68 per cent of drivers believe the person behind the wheel of a vehicle should be responsible for ensuring all their passengers wear seat belts.
UK drivers are currently only required to ensure themselves and children under the age of 14 are buckled up, with older passengers responsible for being secured.
Four percent of respondents admitted having driven without a seatbelt in the previous 12 months, with 22 per cent of these saying they do not belt up on at least half of journeys.
Seatbelts are a legal requirement for all vehicle occupants, with a few exemptions, such as a driver who is reversing; a vehicle being used for police, fire or rescue services; or a delivery driver travelling no more than 50 metres between stops.
Almost half (48 per cent) of people questioned said compliance with the rules could improve if offenders were sent on dedicated courses similar to speed awareness classes, while 36 per cent were in favour of either more police on the roads or the use of camera-based technology to detect whether seatbelts are being worn.
RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “This anniversary provides the ideal moment for the Government to show it’s serious about improving safety on our roads and put an action plan in place for getting more of us to buckle up in the first place.
“For most people, getting into a car and putting on a seatbelt is second nature but it’s obvious more needs to be done to get those who haven’t developed this habit to change their ways.”
AA Charitable Trust director Edmund King said: “The humble seatbelt is arguably one of the greatest road safety inventions, but they are pointless unless people wear them.
“We will continue to push for greater focus on what interventions can be usefully instigated to ensure improved compliance. This could include penalty points for all legal-age car occupants caught not wearing a seatbelt.”
Department for Transport (DfT) figures show the proportion of car occupants killed in crashes on Britain’s roads who were not wearing a seatbelt reached 30 per cent in 2021, the most in records dating back to 2013.
The PM was issued with a fixed penalty notice by Lancashire Police after he was spotted not wearing a seatbelt in an Instagram video he filmed while travelling as a passenger in a moving car during a visit to the county on 19 January.
Drivers caught not wearing a seatbelt in Northern Ireland face a fine of up to £500 and three penalty points. The RAC commissioned the research agency Online95 to carry out the survey earlier this month.