Restraints - Fact Sheet

Legislative Background

The Western Australian (WA) Road Traffic Code (2000) makes drivers responsible for ensuring that all passengers, regardless of age, are seated in a position that is fitted with a seat belt and that the restraint is properly adjusted and securely fastened. The penalties for failing to comply with this requirement are a minimum $500 fine and 4 demerit points for the driver (contingent on either driver or any passengers failing to wear a restraint) and also a $500 fine issued to each unrestrained passenger over the age of 16 years.

Restraint Use Facts2

Drivers and passengers travelling unrestrained in a car are at least 10 times more likely to be killed in a road crash than those wearing a seat belt3. Wearing a seat belt may reduce the chance of being killed in a road accident by up to 50%4.

On WA roads in 2012, 27 motor vehicle occupants were killed while unrestrained, representing 22% of all motor vehicle occupant fatalities for that year (see graph). This is a 27% decrease from the 2009 count of 37 and also a 32% decrease from the previous five year average of 405.

In 2010 alone, 137 motor vehicle occupants were killed or seriously (KSI) injured while unrestrained. Of these, 56% were drivers, 17% were front seat passengers and 16% were back seat passengers5.  

Of those KSI on WA roads between 2003 and 2012, 8% were unrestrained. In Rural areas 14% of those KSI were unrestrained, compared to 5% of those KSI in the Metropolitan area5.

Despite a lower proportion of the State’s population, Rural areas report higher rates of motor vehicle occupants KSI when unrestrained than the Metropolitan area. When considering only those KSI when unrestrained, the Kimberley reports the highest KSI rate (53 per 100,000 persons) despite only comprising 2% of WA’s population. Conversely, the Metropolitan area reports the lowest KSI rate (4 per 100,000 persons) despite comprising 74% of WA’s population (see graph)5.

Unrestrained motor vehicle occupants who were killed were more likely to be male (75%) than female (25%). Of the 383 unrestrained motor vehicle occupants killed in road crashes in the ten years to 2012, 48% were males aged 17 to 39 years old. Of the 103 children and adolescents aged 16 years and under who were killed in a car crash between 2003 and 2012, 31% were unrestrained5.

Recent research suggests that high risk behaviours are associated with a lower likelihood of seat belt use6. Of the 233 unrestrained motor vehicle drivers killed between 2003 and 2012, 134 (57%) also had a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit of 0.05%. In addition, 91 (39%) of the 233 unrestrained motor vehicle drivers were killed in crashes where speed was a contributing factor5.

Of the 383 unrestrained motor vehicle occupants killed between 2003 and 2012, 172 (45%) were in crashes that occurred during the day-time (6am-6pm) and 206 (54%) were in crashes that occurred during the night-time (6pm-6am). The hours of 6pm to midnight accounted for the highest proportion (32%) and the lowest proportion were in the hours of 6am to noon (20%)5.

Community Attitudes

In a 2011 survey of road safety attitudes, respondents demonstrated largely positive attitudes to wearing a seat belt and a good understanding of the protective effective of a seat belt in a crash. Self-reported seat belt wearing rates as drivers or passengers were also found to be high (97%)7.

The perceived unacceptability of not wearing a seat belt when driving alone was found to vary depending on whether respondents were asked to consider the reference population as ‘the community’ (91%), ‘their circle of friends’ (95%) or ‘themselves’ (98%), indicating that respondents related to seat belt non-use as an issue that was largely one for the broader community rather than for themselves or their friends7.

Factors identified as being most likely to strongly encourage vehicle occupants to always wear a seat belt were ‘being reminded by others in the car’ (72%), ‘having an electronic reminder system in the car’ (67%) or ‘police presence on the roads’ (64%)7.

Note: Some information from published material has been edited for greater clarity of meaning.

Revision Date: June 2014
1 This is an interpretation of the relevant legislation and is not intended to constitute legal advice. 2 The data reported here are from police attended crashes only. 3 Data Analysis Australia (2008). Analysis of Road Crash Statistics, 1999 to 2007.4 Elvik & Vaa (2004). The Handbook of Road Safety Measures. Elsevier. 5 Office of Road Safety (2013). Unpublished preliminary data extracted from the Integrated Road Information System, Main Roads Western Australia 2013, extract date 29/04/2013. 6 Raftery & Wundersitz (2011). No restraint? Understanding differences in seat belt use between fatal crashes and observational surveys. Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR). 7 Synovate (2011) Restraints Rotational Report, August 2011. Road Safety Council of Western Australia.

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Published: 26/3/2015 3:20:21 PM