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Compulsory fitting of safety belts

The fitting of safety belts becomes compulsory for all categories of vehicles. This obligation, which initially related only to cars, is thus extended to all commercial vehicles, particularly coaches and minibuses.

ACTS

Directive 2005/39/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 amending Council Directive 74/408/EEC relating to motor vehicles with regard to the seats, their anchorages and head restraints.

Directive 2005/40/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 amending Council Directive 77/541/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to safety belts and restraint systems of motor vehicles.

Directive 2005/41/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 amending Council Directive 76/115/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to anchorages for motor-vehicle safety belts.

SUMMARY

The three Directives make it compulsory to fit safety belts in all vehicles, thereby improving their passive safety.

Fitting and use of safety belts

As many vehicles as possible must be fitted with safety belts in order to ensure the optimum effectiveness of the measures relating to the compulsory use of belts fitted in vehicles, an obligation imposed by Directive 91/671/EEC, as amended by Directive 2003/20/EC.

Failure to use the safety belt is the second-biggest cause of deaths, after non-observance of speed limits and before drunken driving. The obligations to fit and use safety belts will bring about a substantial improvement in road safety within the European Union and a reduction in the number of victims of road accidents.

Scope

The obligation to fit safety belts, initially relating to cars, is henceforth extended to all categories of vehicles and therefore to all commercial vehicles, particularly coaches and minibuses. The compulsory fitting of safety belts in coaches in particular is intended to prevent the risks of passengers being thrown out when coaches overturn after leaving the road, which is the most frequent accident for this type of vehicles.

Technical requirements

The three Directives establish a uniform legal framework for manufacturers by defining the technical requirements which motor vehicles must meet with regard to:

Timetable

The provisions of the three Directives apply, from 20 October 2006, to the new types of vehicles and will be extended, from 20 October 2007, to vehicles of the type already in production.

Safety belts for disabled persons

Technical standards relating to safety belts for disabled persons will be drawn up in the near future in order to ensure a level of safety equivalent to that laid down by the present Directives.

Context

The obligations relating to the fitting and use of safety belts help to achieve the objective, set by the European Commission in its European Action Programme for Road Safety of reducing the number of victims of road accidents by half by 2010.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into force - Date of expiryDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 2005/39/EC20.10.200520.04.2006OJ L 255 of 30.09.2005
Directive 2005/40/EC20.10.200520.04.2006OJ L 255 of 30.09.2005
Directive 2005/41/EC20.10.200520.04.2006OJ L 255 of 30.09.2005

RELATED ACTS

Council Directive 91/671/EEC of 16 December 1991 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to compulsory use of safety belts in vehicles of less than 3.5 tonnes [OJ L 373 of 31.12.1991];

Directive 2003/20/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 April 2003 amending Directive 91/671/EEC [OJ L 115 of 09.05.2003].

The obligation to use the safety belt when the vehicle is in motion is extended to all categories of vehicles and to all seats fitted with one (Directive 2003/20/EC). It related initially only to vehicles of less than 3.5 tonnes fitted with restraint systems and, for certain vehicles (coaches, light goods vehicles), did not apply to the back seats (Directive 91/671/EEC).

The use of restraint systems specially adapted to the size and weight of children also becomes compulsory (Directive 2003/20/EC). Research has emphasised that the use of restraint systems for children can help to attenuate considerably the seriousness of injuries in the event of an accident. Children were initially authorised to travel without being restrained by an appropriate device if one was not available (Directive 91/671/EEC).

Certain exemptions may be granted, particularly in order to allow certain professional activities to be carried out efficiently, to ensure the proper functioning of activities relating to law-and-order, safety or emergency services, or to take account of the special conditions in certain types of transport.

These new provisions come into force in the Member States from 9 May 2006.

 
Last updated: 03.11.2006
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