TV adverts to boost use of rear seat belts

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The Independent Online
WIDESPREAD disregard of rear seat-belt laws has prompted the Government to launch a pounds 1.2m television campaign to try to increase the numbers using belts.

Just over half the adults and three out of twenty children who travel in the back of cars do not wear seat belts. The number of adult back-seat passengers wearing belts has even declined from a peak of 64 per cent in 1991, when it was made compulsory in cars fitted with belts, to 57 per cent now.

Kenneth Carlisle, the minister for roads, said that while 95 per cent of people travelling in the front seats wore belts, those in the back 'are not so aware of the hazards'. Also, it is difficult for the police to enforce the law because it is not obvious whether belts are being worn in a moving car.

Regulations introduced yesterday make it compulsory for children under three travelling in the front to be held by a child restraint. Children under 12 should now travel in the front with a belt if there are no belts in the back.

The television advertisement focuses on the idea that an unrestrained rear-seat adult in a car crashing at 30mph is thrown forward with a force of 3.5 tons - 'the weight of an elephant' - and could easily kill or injure people in the front.

In launching the campaign, Mr Carlisle disclosed that compulsory front-seat-belt laws, introduced in 1983, had saved about 2,000 lives and averted 70,000 serious injuries. 'It is difficult to remember what widespread controversy they caused when they were introduced. Now they are widely accepted,' he said.

Mr Carlisle said offenders would face a fixed penalty of pounds 20 or fines of up to pounds 500. Joan Walley, Labour spokesman for transport, welcomed the campaign but said road accidents would be further reduced by protecting pedestrians and cyclists.