Motorhome Seat-belts – Law and Best Practice

Not all rear seats in a motorhome have seatbeltsAs far as the law is concerned a motorhome is a private vehicle and subject to the same laws as any other motor car on the road. With particular regard to seat-belts there are no exemptions from the law for motorhomes.  The only persons who don’t need to wear a seat-belt are:

  • a driver who is reversing, or supervising a learner driver who is reversing
  • someone in a vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue services
  • a passenger in a trade vehicle and you’re investigating a fault
  • driving a goods vehicle on deliveries that is travelling no more than 50 meters between stops
  • a licensed taxi driver who is ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers

The importance of all passengers wearing seat-belts cannot be under-estimated. When a motorhome is involved in a crash the chances are that it will come to a very sudden stop and or flip over onto its side are very high. If we, our children (or our pets) are not wearing belts they will have their own crash into the motorhome structure. Restraint systems are so designed to help keep us away from the motorhome structure and distribute the forces of a crash over strong parts of our body, with minimum damage to our soft tissues. It has been shown that to be effective and not cause even more damage the belts should be three point belts. with a strap over one shoulder as well as the lap.

Confusing Regulations

Regulations formulated in the late 80’s only concerned front seat passengers and not the seats in the habitation part of a motorhome.  If your motorhome was built right up to as recent as 2007 there was no legal requirement to have seat-belts fitted in any area outside the cab no matter whether they are forward or side facing.  Of course some manufactures did add forward facing seat-belts in the back and its always been the case that if fitted they must be worn.  There was talk of a law change due to happen in 2009 to make it illegal to carry persons un-belted but this did not materialise.

This confusion leads to a  common question on our forum; I don’t have any seat belts in the back but can I still carry passengers back there.  The simple answer is the law says if there are no belts, or those seats that have belts are already occupied then it’s OK not to wear them, where they are not fitted.  But a realistic answer is; it depends.

  • It depends if you are transporting children of a particular size, weight or age. This might mean, in the absence of any belts in the back a child in a car seat must use the front passenger belted seat, while an adult passenger travels in the back. However the law is clear with very young children. Children under 3 must be in a belted seat.
  • It also depends on whether you want to risk the lives of everyone, belted or not. Un-belted passenger can be thrown forward and kill belted passengers that might have survived.
  • It depends upon whether you want your insurance to be valid. It is very unlikely that your insurance company will let you travel with passengers in the back unless they are in forward facing seats and have a 3-point seat belt.
  •  It depends whether you want to risk prosecution, because while the law allows occupation in un-belted seats, there is room for to prosecute drivers if people in the rear are considered to be carried in an unsafe manner. For example, some motorhomes have 9 seats in the rear with only two of them with belts. If someone filled all those seats with children and something terrible happened the police might prosecute the driver for being so reckless.
  • It depends if the Police of insurance company agree with you that a seat is a designated travel seat or should only be used when a vehicle is stationary.  

In October 2007 it became law for the manufactures to ensure that all seats that were intended to be used for travel should have a belt fitted. This effectively means that the police or your insurance company will not look kindly should you be discovered using a seat that is not intended for travel. The manufacturer’s  handbook will undoubtedly mention which seats are travel seats and which are not. Seats without belts are no more a travel seat than the seat in your loo!

Walk away from vans without enough belts.

A little while ago I saw a really nice old van that I would have loved to have owned. It was  a 1999 Tabbert, The build quality on this little A class motorhome was superb, it was a very low mileage model and at a good price too. But, we still have one child that travels with us and this van no seat belts in the back.  I thought for a moment about retro fitting, but van had two sofas in the back so any belts fitted would be side facing. So reluctantly we walked away. Which is what I urge you to do if your dream van does not have enough forward or rear facing three point belts for all those that will be travelling.

Jim Brown

 

 

 

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5 Responses to Motorhome Seat-belts – Law and Best Practice

  1. Barbra Reply

    June 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Oh Jim, so strange to see your email re seat belts. We live in Spain and have been looking for a mkotorhome in our budget for the last six months. Eventually we thought we had found it but had two side curved
    seats to hold four people facing each other. We have two small dogs and they must be strapped in too. We tried to find out the regulations
    and asked our mechanic to enquire if seats belts could be fitted.
    However, as you say we would still have run the risk of being stopped.
    It is very odd that the van is four berth, but you can;t take passengers!! Do you know of anyone selling a motorhome, we must have an end bed and a dinette layout, and left hand drive as we wilkl mostly be on the continent… Thanks

  2. Judith Reply

    April 30, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Jim,

    I found your information and advice very useful, I have a 6 berth van but only have 4 seatbelts.
    My questions are:

    1. is it worth having 2 more seatbelts retro fitted
    2. Where does the law stand on retro fitting seatbelts
    3. Where does my insurance stand on the subject?

  3. GATER Reply

    September 28, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    I HAVE A TWO BERTH COTSWOLD CAMPER 2013 SIDE SEATS HOW DO I GET ON WITH SOMEONE SAT IN THE BACK IN FRANCE

  4. gillian paterson Reply

    November 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    I wonder if you can help me please. My friend has a disabled son who can only be transported in a bed with in a motorhome. Can you advise any law restrictions regards to this?

    I recently read your article on Motorhome Seat-belts – Law and Best Practice.

    I am basically looking for some regulations that would give my friend a guideline on how to transport her bedridden son. So the whole family can go on holiday without breaking any laws.

    I have been on the DVLA website and also phoned. The only information given was for disabled drivers.

    any information would be much appreciated.

    Kind Regards

    gillz

  5. Kevin Reply

    January 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    I am in the process of converting a van to a motorhome. Can I have rear-facing seats and to they need to be belted?
    Can I use lap belts for any seats in the rear of the van?

    Regards

    Kevin

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