Understanding the Law
October 6, 2006

Fasten your seat belts

The Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Act, No 12 of 2006 makes some new demands for users of motor vehicle by requiring the mandatory use of seat belts and protective helmets (for motor bike riders).

The use of these constitutes standard practices in many parts of the world. The act comes after many senseless deaths and the call of many to protect our people traveling in motor vehicles.{{more}} The majority of motor vehicles in St Vincent and the Grenadines are already equipped with seatbelts but seat belts have been used mainly by some persons because they choose to do so and by others who form the habit of using them while they were abroad. It would take a while to get into the habit of using the device but for our own safety and that of others we need to obey the law. In fact it is going to hurt our pockets if we do not obey the law.

One cannot stress too much the advantages of wearing seat belts. A seat belt provides some form of restraint or anchorage for wearers. It prevents the occupants from being thrown forward or out of the vehicle when the vehicle makes an impact in a collision or when there is an unexpected deceleration. It is highly likely for persons thrown from vehicles to sustain serious injuries and even death.

The principal Motor Vehicle Act is amended immediately after section 57K and the new part is attached as Part 1VB. Section 57M stipulates the design of requisite seat belts.

Types of seat belts

These are (1) a lap designed anchored at two points and reaching across the lower region of the body, (2) a diagonal belt anchored at two points and reaching across the body from hip to shoulder and (3) a three point seat belt which “passes across the front of the wearer’s pelvic region and crosses the front of the chest from the hip to the opposite shoulder”.

The act makes allowance for any other type of seat belt which may be approved by the Bureau of Standards and the Minister by notice in a newspaper in circulation. The shape, quality, construction, and installation must meet with the standards required by the Bureau of Standard. It must have a buckle and an adjusting device.

Motor vehicle must be equipped with proper seat belts

To meet the standard of the Licensing Authority a private vehicle must be equipped with seat belts in the front and rear seats. A public vehicle, a mini van for instance, must have seat belts in the front seat. If a person uses a vehicle without these devices he commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a maximum fine of $2000 for the first offence and a maximum fine of $5000 for a subsequent offence.

Who must wear seat belts?

Section 57C requires the person who drives and those who ride a privately owned vehicles to wear seat belts. For public vehicles, seat belts must be worn by driver and front seat rider. Anyone who does not do so commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a maximum fine of $2000 for first offence and a maximum of $5000 for subsequent offences.

I am calling on all users of vehicles who could be liable, to buckle up. Drivers must make sure that their passengers are buckled up. It will take a while to get accustomed to this. As a reminder, you could place a piece of paper with the words “seat belt” on your dashboard or steering wheel until you get into the habit of wearing your seat belt. All the best and happy driving!