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 page 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

You can be fined €60 if you do not wear a seat belt. You must either pay this fine within 28 days, or face an increased fine of €90 payable within 56 days of the offence. Three 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 fined €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 designed for use by a child weighing 36kg or less. Baby car seats and booster cushions are the most common child restraint systems. The restraint is fitted directly to a suitable belt or is held in place by a safety belt, which in turn restrains movement in the event of an accident.

You must make sure that your child is in the correct car seat for their height or weight. The weight range is indicated on the car seat or booster.

Rules

Use of seat belts

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.

Use of child restraints

Babies and children under 3 cannot 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 car seats must not be used in seats protected by an active front air-bag. Car seats and boosters must be in accordance with EU or UN standards.

All Children under 150 centimetres in height or weighing less than 36 kilograms (79lbs) must use a child restraint system suitable for their height and weight while travelling in a car or goods vehicle (other than a taxi). For example a child car seat or booster cushion.

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

You can get more information on seat belts and child restraints from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) website.

Pre-1992 registered vehicles

All cars first registered in Ireland since 1 June 1971 must have seat belts fitted on front seats. All cars first registered since 1992 must 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

You do not need to wear a seat belt if you:

  • Are wearing a disabled person’s belt
  • Have a medical certificate signed by a qualified medical practitioner stating it is inadvisable on medical grounds you wear a safety belt or child restraint
  • Are teaching someone else how to drive (although going without a safety belt may not be advisable)
  • Are a driving test examiner conducting a driving test
  • Are a member of An Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces and are driving as part of your duties

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, you are committing an offence if you do not wear a seat belt or use an appropriate car seat or booster cushion. Penalties are fixed-charge fines and penalty points, to ensure drivers comply with the law.

You can read more about driving offences.

Page edited: 12 May 2021