Seatbelts when motoring in Ireland
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.
What is a safety belt and what is a child restraint?
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.
Use of safety belts and child restraints
The law in Ireland requires that certain vehicles must have seatbelts. These vehicles are:
- Passenger vehicles that accommodate less than 8 people (excluding the driver)
- Passenger vehicles that accommodate more than 8 passengers and that 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
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.
Children and seatbelts
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.
Pre-1992 registered vehicles
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.
Safety belts and disabled passengers
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.
Exemptions from requirement to wear seatbelts
- If you are sitting on a seat that is not fitted with a safety belt
- If you are giving instruction in respect of the driving of a vehicle (i.e., you are teaching someone else how to drive). This is another example of a case where it might not be so wise to avail of the leniency of the law.
- If you are driving test examiner conducting a driving test
- If you are a member of An Garda Siochana or the Defence Forces and are driving as part of your duties
- If you hold a medical certificate signed by a qualified medical practitioner stating it is inadvisable on medical grounds you wear a seatbelt or child restraint
Since July 2004 drivers of small public service vehicles (i.e., taxis) are required to wear seatbelts when driving these vehicles.
Enforcement of seatbelt regulations
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.