The Institute of Advanced Motorists has warned that, despite 50 years of seatbelt laws, far too many drivers and passengers are still putting themselves and others in great danger by not wearing them.
The first seatbelt law came into force in January 1965 and stipulated that all new cars in the UK were required to have seatbelt anchorage points on the outer front seats.
This and paved the way for far-reaching compulsory laws in the decades after.
Statistics from the Department of Transport show that of the 232 car occupants killed in 2013 (for which seatbelt data was recorded), 45 were not wearing a seatbelt –19%.
According to Safer Roads, 2,000 people a year are saved by wearing seatbelts.
It says in the event of an accident if unrestrained, the occupant will hit the windscreen, or the front seat in the case of a rear seat passenger, at a force of 30 to 60 times their own body weight.
The effectiveness of seatbelts as life saving devices is without question. Research has found that for drivers seatbelts are 50% effective at preventing fatal injuries, 45% effective at preventing serious injuries and 25% effective at preventing minor injuries.
It also found for front seat passengers, seatbelts are 45% effective at preventing fatal or serious injuries, and 20% effective at preventing minor injuries.
Also, drivers caught without a seatbelt face on-the-spot fines of £100 and three penalty points. If prosecuted, the maximum fine is £500.
Kevin Delaney, head of road safety at IAM, said: “The biggest problem is complacency.
“Quite simply, people feel it will never happen to them. They think if they are driving locally and at a low speed they will be OK.
“Statistics show that many accidents not only take place at low speeds but also within a few miles of home – so people are mistaken if they think that makes them safer.”
He added: “The trouble is if people are not wearing a seatbelt and find themselves heading towards an accident, it is far too late to do anything about it.”
Delaney called for continued campaigning by government, police and road safety bodies to ensure the issue of wearing seatbelts remains a priority message.
“We need to keep spreading the message particularly on rear seat belt use," he said.
"And if people don’t take heed of it, they will end up as a DfT accident statistic.”