Around a third of people killed in vehicle collisions on North East roads in the past five years were not wearing a seatbelt, the latest figures have revealed.

Road Safety GB North East (RSGB NE) is urging drivers to ensure they and their passengers are properly fastened in after revealing that 306 people injured on the region’s roads since 2017 were not wearing seatbelts – 27 of whom were killed and 105 were seriously injured. Many may have survived had they been wearing a seatbelt.

While not being strapped in properly featured in only five percent of total casualties on the region’s roads, 32 percent of people killed were not wearing a seatbelt – demonstrating the clear link between not being fastened in and the severity of injuries.

Almost half of those who were failing to wear a seatbelt, 49 percent, were aged between 17 and 34; and that age group accounted for 44 percent of the people killed.

However, a closer look at the figures shows that 17-20-year-olds were actually the highest risk group. They accounted for 15 percent of all injuries and 19 percent of fatalities involving people not wearing a seatbelt.

RSGB NE Chair Cheryl Ford-Lyddon said: “The majority of people are sensible and wear a seatbelt every time they get in their vehicle, but the figures show that too many people are risking their lives by failing to buckle up before they set off.

“We know that seatbelts and child seats save lives. People are needlessly killed every year purely because they weren’t fastened in properly. Perhaps they would have survived if they had taken the time to buckle up. That is a dreadful thought for their loved ones to have to live with.

“It’s not just drivers we are concerned about. It’s actually passengers who make up the vast majority of these injuries, particularly for the younger 17-20 group, with 78 percent being a passenger.

“We want to appeal to drivers. Make sure you and your passengers are wearing a seatbelt before you set off – it’s your moral responsibility to do that. If you crash, you could have a fatality on your conscience.”

Cheryl said children were also a major concern. During the last five years, eight children were killed or seriously injured in the region in collisions when not properly secured in the vehicle.

Sgt Glen Robson, Northumbria Police’s Road Safety Lead, said while not wearing a seatbelt was a major contributing factor to the level of injuries sustained on the region’s roads, it was not, in itself, the cause of collisions.

He said the latest statistics showed that risky and illegal behaviour featured heavily in collisions where seatbelts had not been worn, such as being impaired by alcohol or drugs, loss of control, careless, reckless or dangerous driving, and exceeding the speed limit.

He said this showed that people who failed to wear a seatbelt were much more likely to take other risks on the roads, too.

“Failure to wear a seatbelt is not a minor offence, failure to do so can result in avoidable deaths and serious injuries,” said Sgt Robson.

“It is astounding to think that in 2022 – 40 years since seatbelt use became mandatory – that some people still get behind the wheel without buckling up.

“These results show us that it is still as important as ever to educate people about the importance of buckling up and remind people that we are watching and won’t hesitate to hand out fines of up to £5,000. Please, when you’re out and about, always remember to buckle up – it might just save a life.”

Strategic Inspector Kev Salter, of the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, said: “In a crash you are twice as likely to die if you’re not wearing a seatbelt and that is why we will always endeavour to educate and enforce, where necessary.

“All too often our officers deal with collisions where people have not worn seatbelts and they have to deliver the horrendous news to a family that their loved one has been killed. Putting on your seatbelt takes a few seconds and could save your life. Please don’t make us have to knock on your family’s door to deliver tragic news.”

The figures show that males were far more likely to be injured while not wearing a seatbelt than females, accounting for almost two thirds of casualties (64%).

Andrew Bright, Learn and Live Coordinator, Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “We appeal to young people to slow down and to take the dangers of the road seriously.

“We know that inexperienced drivers are most at risk – but they can do something about it. I’m appealing to friends and family to talk to young drivers about staying safe on the roads. Don’t be distracted, stay within the speed limit, drive for the road and conditions, don’t drive after drink or drugs, and wear a seatbelt. Do the right thing.”

Steven Thomas, Head of Prevention and Education at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Wearing a seatbelt can literally be a matter of life and death. It is that important. If you are the driver of the vehicle then you have a responsibility to not only yourself but to your passengers – checking that somebody is wearing a seatbelt takes just seconds but the consequences of them not wearing one can last a lifetime.”

Injuries sustained by people who failed to wear a seatbelt were spread evenly across the region and occurred mainly in urban areas. While the figures showed that County Durham and Northumberland had the highest numbers, this is to be expected as these are the two largest local authority areas in the region.

Number and severity of injuries involving people not wearing a seatbelt from 2017 to 2021

Local Authority Fatal Serious KSI(Fatal and Serious) Slight Total
County Durham 5 21 26 38 64
Darlington 1 4 5 9 14
Gateshead 1 6 7 12 19
Hartlepool 1 4 5 5 10
Middlesbrough 1 4 5 10 15
Newcastle upon Tyne 3 13 16 19 35
North Tyneside 1 2 3 6 9
Northumberland 7 23 30 29 59
Redcar and Cleveland 1 1 2 4 6
South Tyneside 2 4 6 14 20
Stockton-on-Tees 0 9 9 9 18
Sunderland 4 14 18 19 37
Total 27 105 132 174 306

Proportion of total casualties involving people not wearing a seatbelt from 2017 to 2021

Local Authority Fatal Serious KSI(Fatal and Serious) Slight Total
County Durham 38% 13% 15% 4% 6%
Darlington 50% 12% 14% 6% 8%
Gateshead 33% 13% 14% 3% 4%
Hartlepool 33% 15% 17% 2% 3%
Middlesbrough 33% 10% 12% 2% 3%
Newcastle upon Tyne 75% 30% 33% 4% 6%
North Tyneside 33% 7% 9% 2% 3%
Northumberland 26% 10% 12% 3% 5%
Redcar and Cleveland 17% 2% 4% 1% 1%
South Tyneside 67% 20% 26% 7% 9%
Stockton-on-Tees 0% 13% 12% 2% 3%
Sunderland 31% 20% 21% 4% 6%
Total 32% 13% 15% 3% 5%