Facts about seatbelts use in Jamaica
A large percentage of the accidents occurring on the roads in Jamaica
result in deaths or serious injuries. This no doubt is due to factors
such as poor road conditions, driver indiscipline resulting in
bad driving habits and the importation of high-powered vehicles.
Similar situations occur in other highly motorized countries, and
they are forced to develop and implement devices to minimize death
and serious injuries resulting from road accidents.
One such device is the seat belt which, if used correctly, can reduce
traffic fatalities per one thousand (1000) to one fifteenth of
the level in accidents in which the occupants are not wearing seat
belts (66). The effectiveness of seat belts has been proven beyond
HOW IT WORKS
When a motor vehicle is involved in a head-on collision or subjected
to an abrupt deceleration, if you are not wearing a seat belt,
you could be thrown forward with such force that striking the steering
wheel, dashboard or windscreen could cause death or serious injuries.
On the other hand if the body is restrained by a seat belt, an occupant
of the vehicle may sustain primary injuries, which are usually minor.
It is the dynamic energy built up by the body in a moving vehicle
which when stopped suddenly causes inertia to throw the body forward,
and if not restrained, the secondary injuries caused by the impact
can be fatal or serious.
Simply put, if you are in a vehicle going 30 MPH and it is involved
in a head-on collision, if you are not wearing a seat belt, you body
will continue forward at 30MPH. The serious thing, however, is that
the dynamic energy built up by your body causes your weight to be
increased six to seven times so that a person weighing 150 pounds
will find that the weight of the body impacting on the steering wheel,
dashboard or windscreen will be 1050 pounds.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LEGISLATION
includes any persons whose size, height or built is such that the
person experiences or is likely to experience problems or difficulty
with the upper anchorage point of a seat belt
(ii) CHILD RESTRAIN SYSTEM
means a seat belt, restraint system or other device or combination
of devices designed to diminish the risk of injury to a child,
in the event of collision or of abrupt deceleration of a vehicle,
limiting the mobility of the body of the child, being a device
or combination of devices which
(a) is designed either to be fixed directly to a suitable anchorage
or to be used in conjunction with an adult seat belt and held in
place by the restraining action of that belt, or
(b) is fitted in the vehicle by the manufacturer and is of a type
which complies with such standards as may be prescribed by the Minister
by regulations in respect of the shape, quality, construction, installation
and assembly of seat belts and other safety belt assemblies and anchorage
and child restraint systems
iii) FRONT SEAT in relation to a motor vehicle, means a seat which
is wholly or partially in the front of the vehicle
iv) REAR SEAT in relation to a motor vehicle, means a seat which
is wholly or partially in the rear of the vehicle
v) SEAT BELT means any arrangement or assembly of straps with a
securing buckle, adjusting devices and an attachment which is anchored
at a point to the structure of the seat of a motor vehicle by appropriate
means and is designed to diminish the risk of injury to its wearer,
in the event of collision or abrupt deceleration of the vehicle,
by limiting the mobility of the body of the wearer
VEHICLES TO BE EQUIPPED WITH SEAT BELTS
Contrary to the belief that every passenger in every seat in every
class of vehicle must wear a seat belt, the law sets out the vehicles
that must be equipped. While the law implies that a motor vehicle
shall not be used on the road unless it is equipped with seat belts,
it clearly states that:
(a) Trucks constructed to carry passengers as defined by law must
have seat belts on the Front Seat Only. Your vehicle’s registration
will help you to know if it is a truck. For the records, trucks include
buses, pick-ups and vans of a certain weight. It means therefore
that the law requires only the driver and the front seat passenger
in a bus, for example, to wear seat belt.
(b) Motor cars, private motor cars and invalid carriages are to
be fitted with seat belts in the front seats and rear seats.
(c) Public Passenger Vehicles
(i) Stage Carriages: on the front seat only - These vehicles are
(ii) Express Carriages: on the front seat only - These too are usually
(iii) Contract Carriages: except for trucks, on the front and rear
seats - This class of public passenger vehicles can be either truck
(buses) or cars hence the exception.
(iv) Hackney Carriages: on the front and rear seats - This class
of carriages is what is referred to as taxis.
EXEMPTIONS FROM WEARING SEAT BELT
There are exemptions in the law setting out the conditions under
which one would not be committing an offence if he were not wearing
a seat belt.
(i) a child who is being conveyed in a child restraint system
(ii) a driver while he is reversing
(iii) a person who holds a valid certificate of exemption prescribed
by the Minister and signed by a registered medical practitioner
(iv) a person riding in a vehicle while it is being used for fire
brigade or police purposes
(v) a person driving or riding in a vehicle constructed or adapted
for the delivery of goods or mail to consumers or premises as they
case may be, while engaged in the delivery to or collection of such
goods or mail from consumers or premises not further than sixty metres
from each other
The law requires that any person while driving or riding on a motorcycle
shall wear a protective helmet of the shape, quality construction
or standard prescribed. This implies that the driver of the motorcycle
as well as the pillion passenger must wear helmets.
WHO WILL BE CHARGED FOR BREACHING THE LAW
(i) No seat belt on a seat in motor vehicle – the driver of
(ii) Driving without wearing a seat belt – the driver of the
This implies that if a person is driving a motor vehicle without a seat belt
installed, then he can be charged with two offences, that is no seat belt and
not wearing a seat belt.
(iii) Not causing a child to wear or be conveyed in a child restraint system
in a moving vehicle – the driver of the vehicle
(iv) Riding in a motor vehicle without wearing a seat belt if one is installed
The passenger will be prosecuted if that passenger is an adult.
(v) Not wearing protective helmet whilst driving a motor cycle – the
(vi) Not wearing protective helmet whilst being a pillion passenger
The pillion passenger will be charged unless he is a child, in which case the
driver will be charged.