Seat belts

Seat belts - the facts

Seat belts significantly reduce your chances of being killed or seriously injured in a crash on the roads.

The gist of it
  • Wearing seat belts in the front seat became compulsory in the 1970s in both New Zealand and Australia, and further legislation requiring passengers in the back seat to wear them came into law the following decade.
  • Seat belts don’t prevent a crash, but they have a significant impact on the severity of the consequences of being in one.
  • Wearing a correctly fitted seat belt that’s well-maintained reduces the risk of being fatally injured by up to 50 percent.
  • Children aged under seven need to be in an approved child restraint.

Why they work

  • Seatbelts cause the occupant to decelerate at the same rate as the vehicle in a crash
  • Seat belts support the body if a vehicle crashes or stops suddenly and prevents it being thrown from the car or colliding with interior parts of the vehicle
  • A seat belt reduces injuries because it distributes that force to the chest and pelvis which are among the strongest parts of the body

Calling the shots

  • The laws are different in every jurisdiction regarding legal responsibilities of passengers wearing seatbelts. Depending on the age of the passenger, the driver could be held legally responsible. It's important that you know the rules of your own licence.
  • If you’re responsible enough to drive, you’re responsible enough to make sure everyone in the car is safely buckled in. Your car, your rules.

What's at stake?

  • The force on seat belts can be as much as 20 times a person’s weight, without restraint that’s how hard they would hit the windscreen, steering wheel, dashboard or even other passengers.
  • Aside from the safety issue, failure to wear a seat belt – or make sure passengers in the car are wearing one - will result in a fine, and demerit points in some places

Despite the facts and the figures, the message is not getting through to everyone. Young men are particularly unlikely to wear a seat belt, and there is a link between failing to wear a seat belt and other risky behaviour including drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

There are still common myths about seat belt use, but they are easily busted by the facts.

Myth vs Fact


Crashes happen anywhere, and most commonly close to home because that’s where you drive most often. Even at low speed, a crash can result in serious injury or death.


Air bags are designed to work with seat belts not instead of them. In a crash, the seatbelt slows the speed of the occupant and positions them so they impact safely with the airbag.


A seat belt helps keeps you inside the car if you crash, being thrown out of a vehicle significantly increases your chances of being fatally injured

Safety Checklist

To be effective, seat belts need to be worn correctly and in good condition.

  1. A seat belt should fit snugly across the chest and shoulder (laying across the shoulder and collarbone so the force is distributed over the stronger bones). It should not sit across the neck or face and never under your arm. Once you've got your seat in position, use the height adjuster on the front seats to make sure you've got it positioned just right.
  2. It should lie flat, not twisted.
  3. The webbing should not be frayed or damaged, and the fittings should click into place first time, every time.
  4. The retractor mechanisms help the seat belt fit securely and lock automatically during a crash. Test it by grasping the webbing of the seat belt and pulling it out suddenly, it should lock, then retract easily when you let go