Seatbelt safety

Wearing a seatbelt is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your risk of serious injury in a crash. Alarmingly, there are still too many people choosing not to belt up when they get in the car.

In 2019, 31 people who died on our roads weren’t wearing seatbelt. This is 31 too many. Most of the drivers that were killed were men, who were over 30.

The trend is unfortunately continuing, and in 2020 there have been 11 drivers that have died while not wearing a seatbelt. Again most of those that have died have been men, and all that have died were the driver. Every single one of these deaths has happened on a regional road.

How do seatbelts save lives?

Seatbelts have been proven to reduce the amount of injuries a person may experience in a road crash, as most injuries to drivers and passengers are caused by contact with the steering wheel, dashboard, windscreen or the sides and roof of a vehicle.

Three point seatbelts with pretensioner technology provide the best protection in the event of a crash. These seatbelts go over the waist (lap) and the shoulder (sash) of the occupant, providing better protection than two point seat belts (lap belt only).

Pretensioners tighten and reduce slack in seatbelts to protect occupants from rapidly moving forward in the event of a crash. This reduces the injury risk of all car occupants.

All drivers and passengers must wear a seatbelt or appropriate restraint (including children, elderly and pregnant women). Drivers must ensure all passengers are properly restrained.  Seatbelts must be securely fastened and properly adjusted and there must be only one person for each seating position and seatbelt.

Advanced seatbelt features:

  • Seatbelts have been a legal fixture in Victorian cars since 1970 and have reduced the risk of serious or fatal injury by 50%. Throughout the years, technology has advanced to ensure seatbelts operate effectively. Audible seat belt reminders are valuable devices that encourage all occupants to wear their seat belts. In recent years nearly 20% of all fatalities on Australian roads involved no seat belt being worn.
  • The more recent intelligent seatbelt locks prevent a car being started if the driver, or a passenger, is not belted up.

Seatbelt safety tips - when buying a new vehicle, look for:

  • Pretensioners – these reduce slack in the seatbelt upon impact and protect occupants from being propelled forward.
  • Webbing clamps - these stop the belt reeling out frurther in a crash, keeping the  occupant firmly in their seat.
  • Load limiters – this feature is only available in cars with airbags and allows the belt to unreel so that pressure on the person's chest area is reduced.
  • Adjustable upper anchorage points - enables the belt to be placed comfortably across the shoulder rather than against the neck.

Lap and shoulder seatbelts:

  • These halve the risk of serious or fatal injury.
  • Lap and shoulder seatbelts should be in all seating positions in the vehicle, including the centre rear seat.
  • A vehicle that has adjustable upper anchorage points enables the belt to be placed comfortably across the shoulder rather than against the neck.

Seatbelts and airbags:

  • While seat belts provide excellent protection, they cannot always stop people hitting the steering wheel and dashboard. In these situations, airbags can provide added protection from injury.

Seatbelts and overall car protection:

  • The amount of protection you have in a crash depends on the whole structure of the car you are in, not just one element. Tests conducted under the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and in the Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR) show the safety rating of your car. See How Safe is Your Car?, a useful website that shows test results for new and used cars.
  • The How Safe is Your Car? website is also a valuable resource for parents looking at buying first cars for their learners to ensure they are in a vehicle that offers maximum protection if it is involved in a crash.

Child restraints:

  • Children from birth through to 16 years must be fitted with properly adjusted and fitted child restraints. There are legal requirements for the restraint being the right size for the child, properly adjusted and fastened, as well as correctly fitted to the vehicle.
  • By law, the driver must ensure passengers under 16 years are in the necessary seatbelts or restraints – children up to 7 years must be seated in approved child restraints. When fitting a baby or child restraint follow the manufacturer's instructions or, better still, have it fitted at an accredited child restraint station so you are sure it is installed correctly.
  • If you have decided not to buy a new child restraint there are several options available to hire child restraints them from local councils.
  • For more information on child restraints and to see the rules visit our Child Restraints page.