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When are you exempt from wearing a seatbelt?

On the 31st January 1983, a law was passed in the UK requiring all drivers to wear a seatbelt. Although car manufacturers had been required to install seatbelts in all vehicles since 1965, this was the first time that the compulsory wearing of seatbelts became an inherent part of British law.

The law is very strict with regards to wearing a seatbelt and violation of the law is punishable by a fine. There are, however, a number of scenarios in which a person is exempt from the requirement to wear their seatbelt, which are detailed below.

Medical grounds

Certain medical conditions make it difficult and painful, for a driver or passenger to wear a seatbelt, including certain heart conditions and pregnancy. If a person is in possession of a valid medical certificate, stating the medical grounds upon which it is ill-advised for them to wear a seatbelt, they are legally exempt from doing so.


When performing a manoeuvre which requires reversing, such as a three point turn, drivers are exempt from wearing a seatbelt, owing to safety considerations. This exemption also applies to qualified drivers who are supervising learners that are performing these manoeuvres.


If a vehicle has been altered to allow for the delivery of goods or mail, a driver is exempt from wearing a seatbelt while making deliveries between houses, as long as he or she does not drive more than fifty metres between stops.

Emergency services

Any person who is driving, or is a passenger in, an emergency services vehicle is also exempt from wearing a seatbelt, as the delay of placing it on and removing it could hamper their ability to perform their job effectively.

Taxi drivers

The driver of a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle, while waiting for a fare, or while carrying passengers, is exempt from wearing a seatbelt too. 


If you are the passenger in a trade vehicle, which is investigating a fault, you are not required, by law, to wear a seatbelt.

Those with disabilities

Finally, a disabled driver or passenger may not be required to wear a seatbelt, if they are in possession of a “Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing,” obtained from their doctor.  

Breaking the law

Failure to wear a seatbelt, unless you are legally exempt from doing so, in accordance with one of the above scenarios, is punishable by a fine. A £60 on-the-spot fine may be levied, but, if prosecuted, one could be liable to pay a fine of up to £500.

In addition to the direct financial cost of being caught not wearing a seatbelt, any whiplash claim, that results from an accident, is further complicated, as failure to wear a seatbelt can serve to worsen the injuries associated with an accident, caused directly as a result of your own actions.

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