Get the facts
It has been compulsory to wear seatbelts in NSW since 1971. Each year on average there are about 29 drivers and passengers killed and 79 seriously injured who were not wearing available seatbelts. Wearing a seatbelt doubles the chance of surviving a crash and reduces the risk of injury.
Dangers of not wearing a seatbelt
In a crash, a person who isn't wearing a seatbelt will continue to travel forward at the speed of the vehicle until something stops them. You could hit hard objects such as the steering wheel, dashboard, or windscreen. For those in the back seat, it could mean hitting the front seats so hard that they break.
You could also crash through a window and be thrown from the vehicle, where you could be run over or crushed by your own, or another, vehicle.
Even if the vehicle is fitted with an airbag, you must wear a seatbelt. The force at which an unrestrained person strikes the airbag can cause serious injuries.
Legislation passed on 29 November 2023 allowing our existing suite of mobile phone detection cameras to enforce seatbelt laws from around mid-2024.
It’s been a requirement to wear a seatbelt in NSW for over 50 years, yet sadly we continue to see lives being lost when someone has decided not to buckle up.
There won’t be any warning letter period once camera enforcement of seatbelt laws commences. An extensive educational campaign will inform the community about this enforcement change.
NSW Police will continue to enforce seatbelt compliance.
Tools and tips
How to wear a seatbelt properly
Always make sure your seatbelt is adjusted firmly and lies flat (no twists in the webbing or fabric). The lap portion of a seatbelt should lie across the bony section of the hips and the sash should fall across the chest and mid shoulder.
It's important to remember that one seatbelt protects one person. Don’t share a seatbelt between two people (even a child and an adult).
You must sit in a proper seating position with a dedicated seatbelt. It’s illegal and unsafe to have too many people in a car, especially sitting on the floor or on other people's laps. It’s also illegal for passengers to travel in or on the boot of the car. This includes part of a vehicle that's been designed to carry goods. The NSW Legislation website has more detailed information under Part 16 of the Road Rules.
What happens if my rear seat passengers don't wear a seatbelt?
In a crash, an unrestrained rear-seat occupant continues to travel forward until their progress is impeded, usually by one of the front seats. In a severe crash, the force that strikes the seat usually causes the seat mountings or seat structure to fail.
The front seatbelt must then not only restrain the front-seat occupant, but also the failed seat and rear-seat occupant. Seatbelt failures have been reported that resulted in both front and rear occupants sustaining severe and sometimes fatal injuries.
Even after striking the seat in front, the passenger's momentum will usually force their upper body over the top of the seat. Apart from causing them serious injuries, their head can strike a dangerous blow to the front seat occupant. Front seat occupants have been killed or seriously injured in this way.
Can a person share a seatbelt?
Never use a single seatbelt to restrain more than one person. One or both of the occupants will risk being seriously injured or killed. At particular risk are small children who share a seatbelt when they ride on an adult's lap. In a crash, the child could be crushed between the seatbelt and the adult.
Should a seatbelt be worn during pregnancy?
Yes, pregnant women should wear a seatbelt at all times. If a mother hits hard objects inside the car, those blows will be transmitted to the child and cause severe injury. If the unborn child’s mother is seriously injured or killed, the child's chances of survival are greatly reduced. The main cause of foetal deaths in car crashes is the death of the mother.
Pregnant women should put the lap part of the seatbelt as low as possible. It should be positioned under the abdomen, below the front bony part of the hips and across the upper thighs. This will be well below the midpoint of the womb as the baby gets larger. Breast tenderness caused by the sash part of the belt can usually be avoided by passing the seatbelt between the breasts. If this is not the natural line of the sash, a sash guide may improve the comfort of the seatbelt.
For more information
Find out more on the Child Car Seats website.
The NSW Legislation website has more detailed information under Part 16 of the Road Rules.
Whenever children are in a car, they must be safely buckled up in child car seats that are correct for each child’s age and size.