Over a quarter of people who died in a road accident during the last year were not wearing a seatbelt, the Department for Transport (DfT) has revealed.

Official figures show 1,793 people died on UK roads in 2017, the same number killed in 2016. Of these, 27 per cent were not wearing a seatbelt, up from 20 per cent the previous year. 

The fine for not wearing a seatbelt stands at £100, rising to £500 if the case goes to court. But while penalties for using a phone behind the wheel recently doubled to six points and a £200 fine, contravening Rule 99 of the Highway Code by not wearing a seatbelt brings a fine, but no points on licences.

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A spokesman for the DfT said the proportion of people not wearing a seatbelt is “shocking”, adding: “Up to one in four deaths in a car could have been prevented by simply plugging in before moving.” The spokesman added, however, that the UK has “some of the safest roads in the world and we are always looking at ways of making them safer.”

Motoring organisations were quick to criticise those who drove or carried passengers without ensuring everone was belted up. Edmund King, president of the AA, suggested SUV drivers may be lulled into a false sense of security by the size of their vehicles: “Certainly if you are sitting in the back of an SUV you can feel like you’re in a tank and much better protected than someone in a MINI. The reality is that you are not better protected and you’ve got the same chance of anyone else of being hurt or killed if you’re in a crash.”

King called it “astonishing” that 27 per cent of those killed on the road were not wearing seatbelts, calling them “a fundamental piece of safety equipment and it takes no more than a few seconds to put one on.”

Pete Williams, the RAC’s road safety spokesman, said the figures make for “sobering reading”. He added: “There has been no substantial reduction in fatalities since 2010, with the numbers killed on the roads remaining stubbornly high. It also remains the case that casualties among some vulnerable road user groups — specifically pedestrians and motorcyclists — are rising, which is a concern.”

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