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Seat belts are the easiest and cheapest way to avoid injury in a crash. They do not require any special technology and are fitted in all cars. Since 2006, wearing seatbelts is compulsory in all vehicles throughout the EU.
Under EU law, drivers and passengers must wear a seat belt in any seat fitted with one.
Failure to wear a seat belt is the 2nd biggest cause of road death, after speeding but ahead of drink-driving. An EU road safety study (2008) concludes that action targeting the use of seat belts could save up to 7 300 lives a year in the EU.
What about airbags? They are not a substitute for seat belts - always wear a seatbelt even if your car is equipped with airbags.
- children under 1.35 m tall, or travelling in cars/lorries fitted with safety devices, must use an approved device for their size.
- taller children may use an adult seat belt.
- rear-facing child restraints are no longer allowed on front passenger seats unless the airbag has been deactivated.
As well as passing legal requirements, the EU provides funding for Europe-wide campaigns promoting seatbelt-wearing by children.
- Directive 91/671/EEC on EU member country laws relating to compulsory use of safety belts in vehicles of less than 3.5 tonnes
- Amendment: directive 2003/20/CE [M1, M2, M3, N1, N2, N3 vehicles, used on the road, having at least 4 wheels and maximum design speed exceeding 25 km/h]
- Directives 2005/39/EC, 2005/40/EC and 2005/41/EC amending directives 74/408/EEC (seats, anchorages and head restraints), 77/541/EEC (safety belts and restraint systems) and 76/115/CEE (anchorages for safety belts)
- Directive 2009/79/EC on passenger hand-holds on two-wheel motor vehicles