THE number of drivers being pulled over for not wearing seatbelts is on the increase, according to worrying new figures.
Nearly 180,000 fixed penalty notices were issued for seatbelt offences last year - a 17 per cent increase on the figure for 2009.
A Yorkshire-based charity has warned that those people who are ignoring the law are also placing their lives at increased risk.
Brake warned that motorists are twice as likely to die in a crash if they are not wearing a seatbelt.
The figures published today were obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, with results for 2009 and 2013 compiled from replies from 28 of the 45 police forces in England, Wales and Scotland.
The research has been carried out by LV= car insurance firm.
The company said that so far this year, more than 80,000 drivers had been stopped by police and had been charged a total of £8.2 million in fines for seatbelt offences.
It has also published the results of a survey of 2,016 adults, including 1,578 drivers.
This showed that six per cent do not wear seatbelts while driving and nine per cent don’t wear one when they are a front seat passenger.
The poll also reveals that 47 per cent of motorists were unaware they can be fined for not wearing a seatbelt and almost a quarter of people asked (24 per cent) do not always wear a belt when sitting in the back seat.
The highest figure for ignoring a seat belt was for taxi journeys.
The poll showed 42 per cent of motorists did not bother using a seatbelt when travelling by taxi.
Among those not wearing belts, older drivers said they were too restricting while younger ones said they sometimes did not comply on shorter journeys.
A third of drivers aged 65 or over who did not wear seatbelts said they were afraid of getting stuck in the car if they had an accident. LV= said that Government figures showed that 19 per cent of people killed in car accidents last year were not wearing seatbelts.
It added that of these, safety experts estimated that 50 per cent would have survived, if they had been restrained.
LV= car insurance managing director John O’Roarke said: “Wearing a seatbelt can drastically improve your chances of survival in an accident, even if it’s just for a short journey.
“The research shows that too many people are still taking unnecessary risks when driving or travelling as a passenger.
“There is only so much you can do to prevent being in a car accident but wearing a seatbelt costs nothing and it may save your life one day.”
Wearing a seatbelt in the front seat as a driver or passenger has been mandatory since 1983.
Philip Goose, senior community engagement officer at Brake, the Huddersfield based national road safety charity said: “Brake is concerned by the increase in people being issued with penalties for not wearing a seatbelt. You are twice as likely to die in a crash if you are not wearing a seatbelt.
“Their importance cannot be overstated – it is estimated that between 1983 when seatbelts were made compulsory and 2010 more than 50,000 lives have been saved.
“We welcome the essential work of traffic police to enforce and publicise the importance of wearing a belt.
“Brake’s advice is simple – every time you get in a car, belt up and ensure that everyone else in the vehicle does so”.