More than two-thirds of all motorists think drivers should be responsible for passengers failing to use their seatbelts, according to new research. An RAC study of 1,800 drivers found 68 percent think the driver of the car should be held responsible when passengers fail to buckle up on the road.

Under current rules, drivers must ensure they and any children in the vehicle are correctly strapped in, but that responsibility does not extend to other adults. However, the RAC research shows many motorists think the responsibility should be broadened to include all passengers. A third of those quizzed (33 percent) said they thought drivers should be penalised if they are caught travelling with a passenger who is not wearing a seatbelt.

The company’s study also showed roughly a quarter of motorists (24 percent) think the current law that states drivers can be fined up to £500 for failing to wear a seatbelt is “too lenient”. Almost seven in every 10 respondents (69 percent) said they thought penalty points should be added to the licence of those failing to comply with the law.

Woman in car buckling seatbelt

The figures suggest such a change may be necessary, with four percent of respondents admitting to driving without a seatbelt at some point in the last 12 months, while 22 percent of those said they don’t belt up at least half the time.

Roughly half of respondents (48 percent) said they would like to see those caught without a seatbelt sent on a dedicated awareness course, while more than a third (36 percent) said there should be more police on the road or camera technology to tackle such issues.

Couple driving without wearing seatbelts

“Forty years on from the introduction of what is undeniably one the most important road safety laws, it’s still the case that far too many people don’t wear seatbelts – something that’s a factor in around 30 percent of all road deaths each year,” said RAC road safety spokesperson Simon Williams. “It’s also sadly the case that people are twice as likely to die in a crash if they’re not wearing one.

“The statistics are stark, yet some people are still prepared to take the risk and not wear a seatbelt. This obviously begs the question what can be done next. 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.

“Our research shows drivers are clearly supportive of greater penalties, which we know the government is considering. But arguably, toughening the law isn’t enough: drivers need to think there’s a good chance of being caught in the first place. If they don’t, there’s every chance they’ll carry on as normal – just as we see day-in, day-out with plenty of drivers still prepared to illegally use a handheld phone while behind the wheel.

“A national advertising campaign around the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt could also bring about a positive change in behaviour, and it’s something a quarter of drivers we surveyed said would improve compliance with the law.”

Man driving a car without seatbelt