Fleet News

Seatbelt law loophole closure could save cash and lives

FLEETS are the focus of a Government drive to close a legal loophole on seatbelt use among van drivers that could save 21 lives and avoid more than 1,000 injuries a year.

Surveys carried out by research company TRL consistently show the seatbelt wearing rate for van drivers is about 63% and for their passengers is 55%.

If the rates were raised to the level seen in cars, currently 90% for drivers and 92% for their passengers, 21 fatalities, 241 serious injuries and 1,040 slight injuries could be prevented in vans every year.

Overall in 2001, there were 64 deaths, 747 serious injuries and 6,493 slight injuries in light goods vehicle crashes.

TRL estimates suggest every fatality costs £1.19 million, while a serious injury costs £134,000 and a slight injury is £10,000.

Therefore the potential savings from the changes could be more than £186 million. Part of the problem is a loophole in the law that allows drivers to take off their seatbelts when doing 'local rounds of deliveries and collections'.

However, there is no definition of local rounds and the Government has launched a consultation to clamp down on drivers abusing the law.

Under new legislation passed under the Railways and Transport Safety Act, drivers will only be allowed to take off their seatbelt for a set distance, suggested to be either 10 or 20 metres.

A Government spokesman said: 'The Department for Transport believes that the distance should be very short, otherwise vehicles will have reached a reasonable speed and are more likely to encounter hazards such as junctions. Seatbelts reduce deaths and serious injuries by at least 50%.

'There seems no reason why they should not produce similar benefits in goods vehicles, provided the drivers use them.'

  • The deadline for comments on the proposals is November 14 and details are available by emailing david.peagam@dft.gsi.gov.uk or by logging on to www.dft.gov.uk.
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