Each year in Ireland, many people are hurt, seriously injured or killed on our roads and much of this injury and many of the deaths would not occur if drivers and passengers were adequately restrained by safety belts or child restraint systems (CRS). There is a legal obligation to be restrained and this applies to drivers and passengers. Furthermore, there is an additional onus on drivers to ensure that persons under 17 are suitably restrained while they are in charge of the vehicle.Offences carry a fixed-charge fine of €60. You must pay this fine within 28 days, or face an increased fine of €90 payable within 56 days of the offence. Two penalty points will be added to your licence if you opt not to go to court. If you are convicted in court for not wearing a seatbelt, four penalty points will be added to your licence and you will be liable to an €2,000 fine.
This document is an overview of the law currently in place regarding the wearing of seatbelts and child restraints in motor vehicles. Information is also provided regarding those exempted under the law.
Under the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 1971, the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 1991 and SI 240/2006 European Communities (Compulsory Use of Safety Belts and Child Restraint Systems in Motor Vehicles), the majority of people travelling in motor vehicles in Ireland are required to wear a seatbelt or child restraint at all times. Certain people however, are exempt from these requirements. As a driver or passenger, it is in your interest to know the requirements and your obligations. It is worth noting that the law has to allow for exceptional circumstances and that it is not totally comprehensive. There may be situations where wearing is not mandatory but is, nonetheless, advisable - for example when giving driving tuition. Definitions of "seatbelts", "child restraints" and "disabled persons belts" are provided below. A special section also covers children and seatbelt requirements.
A safety belt consists of an assembly of straps adequately fixed to the vehicle, with a securing buckle. These straps must be capable of being adjusted. In the event of an accident or incident, the safety belt is designed to minimise the risk of injury by restraining your movements.
A child restraint is a device designed for use by a child weighing 36 kg or less. The restraint is fitted directly to a suitable belt or is held in place by the action of a safety belt, which in turn restrains movement in the event of an accident or incident. An appropriate child restraint is one appropriate to the weight of the child. The weight range is indicated on the child restraint. Examples of appropriate restraint systems are baby car seats and booster cushions.
The law in Ireland requires that certain vehicles must have seatbelts. These vehicles are:
From 31 October 2011 all buses involved in the organised transport of children are required to be fitted with the appropriate safety belts or restraint systems for the number of children being transported.
Since 1st January 1971, all drivers and anyone occupying a forward facing front seat of any of the vehicles listed above must wear a safety belt or an appropriate child restraint, unless they are exempted. (See "exemptions" below).
Passengers travelling in buses fitted with safety belts must be informed of the requirement to wear them.
Babies and children under 3 may not travel in a car or goods vehicle (other than a taxi) unless restrained in an appropriate child restraint. This requirement applies to all of the vehicles listed above, irrespective of when they were registered - as long as they are equipped with safety belts. (Again, a child restraint is a device designed for use by a child weighing 36 kg or less). The restraint is fitted directly to a suitable belt or is held in place by the action of a safety belt, which in turn restrains movement in the event of an accident or incident. An appropriate child restraint is one appropriate to the weight of the child. The weight range is indicated on the child restraint.
Rear facing child restraints must not be used in seats protected by an active frontal air-bag and child restraints must be in accordance with EU or UN standards.
Children over 3 years of age may occupy a forward facing front seat of a vehicle only if they are using a safety belt or an appropriate child restraint. Otherwise, they must travel in a rear seat. Children under 150 centimetres in height and weighing less than 36 kilograms (generally children up to 11/12 years old) must use the correct child seat or booster cushion.
Passengers aged 3 years or over must wear safety belts where they are fitted, when travelling by bus.
A person aged 12 years or more who is under 150 cm in height is not required to use a seatbelt even if this is provided but they must use an appropriate child restraint when travelling in cars or goods vehicles fitted with safety belts. They are of course free to wear the belt but people under this height are outside the limits of the safety belt design parameters, so there is a possibility that a safety belt could be injurious to them in some circumstances. For this reason, the law allows them to choose for themselves to belt up or not to belt up. This is irrespective of whether they are sitting in the front or back of the vehicle.
All cars first registered in Ireland since 1st June 1971, are required to have safety belts fitted on front seats. Rear seats have to be equipped with safety belts on all cars first registered since 1992. If seatbelts are not provided in the back of your pre-1992 car, then passengers are exempted from the law requiring them to use a safety belt (or child restraint) when travelling in the back of your car. However, if you have a pre-1992 car, it is strongly recommended you have safety belts or, perhaps, child restraints appropriate to the intended use, fitted. Many pre-1992 cars have anchorages for safety belts making the fitment of safety belts or child restraint systems a relatively inexpensive proposition.
A "disabled persons belt" is a safety belt which has been specially designed or adapted for use by someone with a physical disability. Disabled persons belts should only be used by those for whom they are intended.
Since July 2004 drivers of small public service vehicles (i.e., taxis) are required to wear seatbelts when driving these vehicles.
An Garda Siochana (the Irish police force) is empowered by law to enforce seatbelt regulations throughout Ireland. Unless you are among those exempted under the law, it is a statutory offence to fail to wear a seatbelt or use an appropriate child restraint where one is provided in the vehicle.
Measures introduced by Government have increased fines for non-wearing of seatbelts and child restraints. The measures impose fixed-charge fines and penalty points, to ensure drivers comply with the law. Further information is available in our document on driving offences.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.