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© content copyright Sussex Safer Roads 2015

Safer for drivers

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Wearing a seat belt is common sense from a safety perspective but it is also a legal requirement for the driver and passengers to use one if it is fitted to the vehicle.

Since becoming compulsory in 1983 the wearing of seatbelts has made a significant contribution to the reduction of casualties.

The risks from not using a rear seatbelt are less well known. The chance of dying in a crash in rear seats is three times higher if seatbelts are not used.

Also, as many as 46 front seat passengers or drivers die in crashes each year after being struck by unrestrained rear seat passengers.

The Law

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that all passengers under 14 are correctly strapped into the vehicle. It is illegal to allow a child to travel unrestrained in the front seat of any vehicle.

Choosing Child Restraints

  • It is important that the child restraint fits the child and the car in which it will be fitted. Choose something that you can lift and carry and is convenient to use.
  • Choose the seat to suit the child’s weight and physical size. Be guided by size and weight rather than age.
  • Not all seats are compatible with all cars. Always try before you buy. Ask the retailer to demonstrate the correct method of fitting for your car.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly to ensure that the seat is
  • correctly fitted. It you can’t fit it firmly in the vehicle then you probably have the wrong seat.
  • Make sure that the harness is adjusted so that it fits securely around the child. You should only be able to fit two fingers flat between the child and the straps. The central buckle should not be over the chest or stomach. It should fit low over the abdomen.

Never use a seat that has been in an accident, even if it appears undamaged, or one that has cracks in it. Regularly check that the harness shows no signs of wear and tear.



Mobile phones, satellite navigation systems, Ipods/MP3 players and even passengers can be a distraction on the roads.  Whether answering a call or having to prevent children scrapping in the back seat, all it takes is a moment's distraction to cause an accident.

The Facts

  • 58% of drivers admit that mobile phones are their biggest distraction while driving.
  • Young people are most at risk – 16 to 34 year olds are twice as likely than the over 55s to keep their mobile switched on while driving.
  • If you drive and use a mobile phone you are four times more likely to have an accident.
  • Two thirds of drivers who use theircar for work purposes admit to feeling pressure to keep their phone switched on.
  • 34% of people who use their car for work purposes admit to answering or making work- related calls or texts while driving.

The Law

Since February 2007 motorists  have faced a fixed penalty fine of £60 and their licence endorsed with 3 penalty points if caught driving while using a hand-held mobile phone. The £60 fixed penalty can be increased to a maximum fine of £1,000 if the matter goes to court (£2,500 for drivers of lorries and buses).

Employers may also be prosecuted if they require their employees to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. Drivers using hands-free devices risk prosecution if they fail to maintain proper control of their vehicle or drive carelessly or dangerously. The law says that you must have proper control of your vehicle at all times.

If using a mobile phone causes you to drive in a careless or dangerous manner then these are offences for which you could be prosecuted. The penalties could include an unlimited fine, disqualification from driving and up to two years imprisonment.

Tips for drivers 

  • Never use a hand-held mobile phone when you are driving. If you are driving, keep the phone switched off and use your voicemail or message service.
  • Stop in a safe place, not on a motorway or hard shoulder, to use the phone and pick up messages.
  • Do not use a hands-free phone – your mind will be distracted by the conversation and you will not be concentrating fully on your driving.

Remember that phones are not the only distraction. It can be just as dangerous to take your attention away for any reason such as changing a tape or CD. Use your common sense to know when it is most appropriate to do this.

Driving Tips for using satellite navigation systems

Satellite navigation units (satnavs) can be a  real aid to road safety if used sensibly, once the driver is familiar with technology and it is no longer proving a distraction.

We offer the following advice:

  • Think about the position of the unit: to comply with the Road Traffic Act Construction and Use Regulations; the satellite  navigation unit must not be located anywhere within the sweep of the windscreen wipers or anywhere where else that would cause obstruction to the clear vision of the driver;
  • Avoid anywhere where an airbag could be deployed;
  • Programme it before you set off, not while you are driving;
  • Have a map as a fall back: remember the satellite navigation equipment in not infallible so do have some idea of your route before you set out;
  • If the unit asks you to do something that is clearly wrong (e.g. driving through a field) then disregard that advice; it is a tool to help, not a substitute for common sense;
  • Take particular care if you are driving a hired vehicle that is larger than one you are used to:  weight/height restrictions apply and can affect your optimum route;
  • Use the audible instruction to guide you (don't try to read it);
  • Remove the unit before leaving the vehicle.  Insurance cover may be invalid if reasonable precautions have not been taken to reduce the  risk of theft;
  • Make sure that a visible "ring" is removed from the windscreen - it's a giveaway.
  • Don't programme in your "home" details; thieves have been known to use these once they have stolen the satnav unit to commit further  offences.
  • If you need to programme an alternative route to avoid congestion, then pull up somewhere safe to do it.  Do not attempt to re-programme the unit while driving.

Although there is no legislation for the correct use of satellite navigation equipment, the police have a number of offences they can use if they believe the driver to have been '"driving without due care" or for failure to have proper control' which could result in endorsements of between three and nine penalty points on your licence.

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