Time to get tough on seatbelt use

The police should have the power to impound vehicles where the occupants aren't wearing seatbelts, says the car review website dogandlemon.com.

Editor Clive Matthew Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:

“A high percentage of people who die in car accidents are not wearing seatbelts. The current strategy of fining the occupants is clearly not working. In fact, the best evidence suggests fines and the threat of disqualification don’t work for the highest risk groups.”

The police currently fine occupants of vehicles where seatbelts aren’t being worn. However, Matthew-Wilson believes the police should also have the power to impound vehicles for up to a week.

“At the moment, many people, especially in poor areas, simply regard seatbelt use as optional. If they get a ticket, they rarely change their behaviour. It’s extreme, but impounding offenders’ vehicles would quickly send out a much tougher message.”

“It’s not that the police should impound every vehicle where seatbelts aren't worn; for several months they should simply warn drivers. They should also issue free seatbelt extensions to vehicle occupants who struggle to wear conventional seatbelts.”

“However, after a few months of peacefully sending out the message: ‘wear your seatbelt’, the police should start impounding a few vehicles. That would send out an even stronger message; one that would ripple through whole communities.” 

“The police already have the power to impound vehicles for speeding, if the driver is drunk, or where the driver doesn’t have a licence. Arguably, not wearing your seatbelt is just as dangerous; therefore tough measures are needed.”

Matthew-Wilson also rejected the idea that educating drivers would make any difference.

“The science is quite clear: asking people to drive safely is an expensive waste of time. It’s time to refocus on what works.”

“The unsafest drivers tend to come from the poorest neighbourhoods, especially in the country. These are people who drive without wearing seatbelts, to the funeral of a mate who died in a car crash through not wearing a seatbelt, who let their kids play or ride near busy roads, who drink and drive regularly, who see life and death as a matter of chance.”

“You’re wasting your time trying to point out the value of wearing a seatbelt to this group. However, they’re more likely to get the message if their vehicle is impounded.”