Half of drivers aged 18-24 say they have been in a car with someone not belted up in the past year, according to research by Brake, the road safety charity.

Young drivers are nearly three times more likely to be in a car with someone who isn’t belted up compared to all drivers and more than eight times more likely than drivers over 65. The findings come from a survey of 2,000 drivers, commissioned by Brake and launched on the anniversary of seat belt wearing first being made mandatory in the UK, 36 years ago today (31 January 1983).

“Seat belt wearing became compulsory almost 40 years ago and so it comes as a real shock to hear half of young drivers admit they’ve been in a car with someone not belted up in the past year,” said Josh Harris, Director of Campaigns for Brake. “We know seat belts save lives and yet there are still four people a week who needlessly die on our roads when not belted up.

“Soon we will see seat belt reminders made mandatory on all seats in new cars – a great step forward. Unfortunately, we’ve found that young people are most exposed to this issue and they are far less likely to be purchasing new vehicles. We need the government to target safety campaigns at the younger generations to make sure they hear loud and clear that seat belts save lives. Ultimately every death on the road is preventable but a death of someone not wearing a seat belt could so easily be avoided.”

Brake believes that the solution to the growing problem of non-seat belt use lies in the safe system approach to our roads, where vehicles are designed to eliminate risk through technology. European legislation is currently being passed which will make seat belt reminder systems for all seats in new cars mandatory from later this year. The move was backed by 8 in 10 drivers in the survey, who agreed that seat belt reminders should be required to be fitted for all seats in a car. Younger drivers were less likely to support seat belt reminders in all seats, compared to older drivers, further indicating a potential lack of understanding of the importance of the seat belt among young drivers.