Seat belts and the law

Introduction

Each year in Ireland, many people are hurt, seriously injured or killed on our roads. Some of these injuries and deaths could have been prevented if drivers and passengers had been adequately restrained by seat belts or child restraint systems.

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 seat belt or child restraint at all times.

If seat belts are fitted they must be worn by both drivers and passengers. The driver has a responsibility to ensure that passengers under 17 are suitably restrained. This document provides an overview of the law regarding the wearing of seat belts and child restraints in motor vehicles. It also provides information on groups of people exempted under the law.

Fines and penalty points

Offences carry a fixed-charge fine of €60. You must either 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 choose to pay the fine and not to go to court.

However, 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 for a fine of €2,000.

What is a safety belt?

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. The safety belt is designed to minimise the risk of injury in an accident or incident by restraining your movements.

What is a child restraint?

A child restraint is a device designed for use by a child weighing 36kg 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.

Rules

Use of seat belts and child restraints

The law in Ireland requires the following vehicles to have seat belts:

  • Passenger vehicles that accommodate fewer than 8 people (excluding the driver)
  • Passenger vehicles that accommodate more than 8 passengers and have a gross vehicle weight of less than 3,500 kg
  • Goods vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight of less than 3,500 kg

All buses transporting children must be fitted with the appropriate seat belts or restraint systems for the number of children being transported.

Passengers in buses fitted with seat belts must be informed of the requirement to wear them.

Children aged under 3

Babies and children under 3 may not travel in a car or goods vehicle (other than a taxi) unless they are appropriately restrained. This requirement applies to all of the vehicles listed above, irrespective of when they were registered, as long as they are equipped with seat belts.

Rear-facing child restraints must not be used in seats protected by an active front air-bag and child restraints must be in accordance with EU or UN standards.

Children aged 3-17

Children aged 3 or over 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.

When travelling by bus, passengers aged 3 or over must wear seat belts, where they are fitted.

Pre-1992 registered vehicles

All cars first registered in Ireland since 1 June 1971 are required to have seat belts fitted on front seats. All cars first registered since 1992 are required to have seat belts fitted on rear seats.

In a pre-1992 registered car without fitted seat belts, passengers are exempted from the law requiring them to use a safety belt (or child restraint) when travelling in the back of the car. However, it is strongly recommended you have seat belts or child restraints fitted.

Seat belts and disabled passengers

A ‘disabled person’s belt’ is a safety belt which has been specially designed or adapted for use by someone with a physical disability. These belts should only be used by people for whom they are intended.

Exemptions from the requirement to wear seat belts

  1. If you are sitting on a seat that is not fitted with a safety belt
  2. If you are teaching someone else how to drive (although going without a safety belt may not be advisable)
  3. If you are a driving test examiner conducting a driving test
  4. If you are a member of An Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces and are driving as part of your duties
  5. If you hold a medical certificate signed by a qualified medical practitioner stating it is inadvisable on medical grounds you wear a safety belt or child restraint

Since July 2004, drivers of small public service vehicles (such as taxis) are not exempt and must wear seat belts when driving these vehicles.

Enforcement of seat belt regulations

The Gardaí are empowered by law to enforce seat belt regulations.

Unless you are exempted under the law, it is a statutory offence to fail to wear a seatbelt or fail to use an appropriate child restraint where one is provided in the vehicle. Penalties are fixed-charge fines and penalty points, to ensure drivers comply with the law.

Further information is available in our document on driving offences.

Page edited: 28 May 2019