For many years cars have been fitted with seat belts to all passenger seats and now all modern motorhomes are to have seat belts fitted to all designated travelling seats. Other seats not designated as travelling seats and designed for use when static do not have to have seat belts fitted and should not be used when travelling.
In most cases, seats for static use will be side facing. Seat belts are now not permitted for these side-facing seats because in the event of an accident such seat belts can cause harm to vulnerable parts of the body.
Older motorhomes may only have the cab seats fitted with seat belts and this raises the question of the legality of carrying passengers in the leisure accommodation when travelling. The same question can arise with a modern motorhome as there is no requirement for manufacturers to provide the same number of travelling seats as there are berths.
The following is a brief guide to the legislative requirements in Britain but ultimately the interpretation of the law is down to the courts, based on the facts of any particular case.
- Where seatbelts are provided they must be worn
- Motorhomes first registered on or after 20 October 2007 must have seat belts for designated travel seats
- There are specific requirements for children and seatbelts. Children three years and under must be in a child car seat. If there is no seat belt, they cannot travel
- A child aged three or older can travel in a back seat without a car seat and without a seat belt if the vehicle does not have one, although this is not recommended. Refer to childcarseats.org.uk/the-law/ for further information
- Travelling in a motorhome without a seat belt where there are no available seat belts is not specifically outlawed. However, if a motorhome is stopped by the police and the officer is of the opinion the seating arrangements for the number of passengers being carried are inadequate and are likely to endanger other passengers or the stability of the vehicle, then he or she may instigate a prosecution. Powers for such a prosecution exist under Regulation 100 of the Construction and Use Regulations and/or under Section 40a of the Road Traffic Act 1988: Using Vehicles in a Dangerous Condition.
Where a motorhome was registered before 20 October 2007 and travelling in seat belts is not possible, to reduce your exposure to prosecution and consequences from your motorhome insurer:
- Only carry the number of passengers which the motorhome was designed to carry and ensure the vehicle is not overloaded. Thus a two-berth motorhome with only the two cab belted seats should only ever carry two people
- Check with your insurance company at the outset if you intend to carry passengers where there are insufficient seat belts available.
Irrespective of the law it is highly recommended that travel is only undertaken with the use of appropriate seat belts.
Fitting of seat belts
Only forward and rearward facing seats are suitable for use as a travelling seats and fitting of seat belts. In most cases, if a seat was not constructed as a travelling seat it is unlikely to be fit for travel use. Seat belts require secure anchorages to ensure they are able to withstand the forces arising in the case of a collision and this is a job for the specialist.