Buckling Up for Life: The Importance of Seat Belt Wear for Maximum Safety - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Buckling Up for Life: The Importance of Seat Belt Wear for Maximum Safety

To ensure maximum safety, there’s been a push for wearing seat belts, as studies have consistently shown that they save lives. As of 2021, reports show that 28.6 percent of driver and 35.6 percent of passenger fatalities have happened because of not wearing seat belts.

All Canadian seat belt laws are primary enforcement laws, which means that not wearing a seat belt is enough for the police to pull you over and issue a citation. The typical penalty for not wearing a seat belt is a fine, demerit points, or both. Ontario’s fine is between $200 to $1,000 and two demerits.

Before seat belt laws came into effect, most people in Canada didn’t wear them. For example, only 28 percent of Albertans wore seat belts in 1987, when seat belts became mandatory. The latest information indicates that 90 percent or more people use seat belts across Canada, including Alberta (92 percent). The highest percentage was in British Columbia (96.9%), while the lowest was in Yukon (78.1 percent).

Key Takeaways

  • All Canadian provinces and territories require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts.
  • Seat belts are more effective than other road safety devices in reducing deaths and injuries in car accidents.
  • Not wearing a seat belt means that there’s a higher chance of death and injury and a lower personal injury settlement.
  • Even if you weren’t wearing a seat belt, if you were injured because of a negligent driver, you can still pursue a personal injury lawsuit in Canada.

Seat Belt Safety Statistics

A comparison of vehicle safety technologies from 1960 to 2012 showed that newer measures also help keep people safe. However, seat belts continue to save more lives than all other safety measures combined. The standard three-point seatbelt we take for granted today is a result of these studies. Data from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides more or less the same information.

The following statistics show just how important seat belts are in Canada:

  • Accidents were the leading cause of death in Canada for ages 15 to 24 in 2020.
  • Front-seat passengers using seat belts reduce the risk of a fatal injury by 47 percent and moderate to critical injury by 52 percent.
  • British Columbia has the highest rate of seatbelt use (96.9 percent), followed by Saskatchewan (96.8 percent), Ontario (96 percent), and Quebec (96 percent).
  • Ontario had the lowest fatality rate per 100,000 population (3.8) in 2021, Prince Edward Island had the highest (10.5).
  • More people died in motor vehicle accidents in rural (54 percent) than in urban (44.67 percent) areas. On the other hand, more people sustained personal injuries in urban areas (72.5 percent) than in rural areas (25.1 percent).
  • Fewer pickup and light truck drivers and passengers (92 percent) use seat belts than those in minivans, cars, and SUVs (95.3 percent national average).
  • Significantly fewer back-seat passengers (89.2 percent) buckle up than those in front (95.5 percent).
  • Female drivers wear seat belts (96 percent)  men (94.3 percent).
  • Travel restrictions during the pandemic resulted in an increase in unrestrained fatalities (from 41 to 70 percent) in speed-related accidents.

These statistics prove how important seat belts are for ensuring maximum safety. A substantial number of people would be alive today if they had been wearing seat belts at the time of their car accident.

Why should you use seat belts?

Most Canadians accept that they should wear seat belts because it’s an offence not to. However, they might not know why we have seat belt laws.

Numerous global and Canadian studies have consistently found that seat belts can save lives. According to Transport Canada, seat belts save approximately 1,000 lives annually in Canada

While seat belt use is widespread, about 3 to 21 percent of individuals don’t wear them, depending on the province. About 40 percent of those who died in passenger car accidents weren’t wearing seatbelts.

Canadian law enforcement considers failing to wear a seat belt as one of the leading causes of death on the road. About a third (29.4 percent) of driver fatalities and 10.8 percent of serious injuries were due to not buckling up in 2018. Unbuckled car occupants are more likely to die (32.1 percent) or get seriously hurt (18.4 percent). Other contributing factors include impaired driving, distracted driving, and aggressive driving.

Seat belts have the following benefits:

  • They keep you from being expelled in motor vehicle crashes.
  • They shield you from the significant force when an airbag deploys, which can cause severe injuries if you’re not restrained by a seat belt.
  • They keep passengers safe in a potentially fatal crash.
  • They help to prevent increases in car insurance premiums.

Instead of using public transportation, most Canadians drive to work. About 73.8 percent of Ontarians took a car, van, or truck to work in 2022. Therefore, wearing a seat belt to ensure maximum safety is very important.

Seat Belt History

British engineer, George Cayley of Yorkshire, invented and pioneered many things, including the seat belt. He developed what was essentially a strap to keep pilots secure in gliders. 

The transition to passenger vehicles happened in 1885, with a design patented by American engineer, Edward J. Claghorn. The seat belt then debuted in 1922 during the Indy 500. However, these seat belts were mainly straps worn across the lap that didn’t adequately protect the torso.

The three-point seat belt that we use today came out in 1959 and was perfected by Volvo engineer, Nils Bohlin. Bohlin received a patent in 1962, and his design had one strap across the hip and one across the torso, which secured the person at three points.

Before Bohlin received the patent, Wisconsin passed the first official seat belt law in 1961, but it wasn’t without controversy. Lawmakers argued for and against mandating seat belt use in a passenger safety versus personal choice debate.

Risk Factors for Seat Belt Wear

The latest research on attitudes and behaviours regarding seat belt wear indicates that age and disposition (driver vs. passenger) are strong indicators. Younger people (16-24) and passengers are less likely to wear seat belts while in a motor vehicle.

Time and day

A significant risk factor for seat belt wear is the time and day individuals are in a motor vehicle. More people tend to use their seat belts during daytime, resulting in fewer fatalities during daytime accidents. They also tend to use seat belts more during weekdays. 

One explanation could be that since seat belts are mandatory in Canada, police officers can see if people aren’t wearing seat belts during the day. Another is that most people who travel during the weekdays and daytime are older people, who tend to wear seat belts anyway, on their way to work.

Distance, speed, and weather

While most people wear seat belts when they know they’re in for a long drive, some tend to forget to wear seat belts when they’re travelling short distances. People also tend to remember to wear seat belts on the highway and in bad weather.


All Canadian provinces and territories mandate seat belt use. However, motorists in some areas are more likely to follow the law than in other areas. The seat belt use rate is highest in British Columbia and lowest in Yukon. People who live in rural areas are also less likely to wear seat belts than those in urban locations. 


Young people tend to think that nothing bad can happen to them and engage in risky behaviour. One of these behaviours is not wearing seat belts. Only 64 percent of people between 16 and 24 wear seat belts, compared to 83.6 percent among people 65 and older.

Do Canadians commonly drive unbuckled?

Though most Canadians wear seat belts, about 3 to 21 percent don’t, and that’s a problem. At least 1.1 million people are at risk of preventable serious injuries and fatalities. Most Canadians believe that seat belts can save lives. The ones who don’t wear seat belts often find out too late why seat belt laws are in place.

Consequences of Driving Unbuckled

Seat belts are for the safety of people in a car, and wearing them requires minimal effort. Young people might believe that they’re invincible, but that’s not true. 

Of the fatalities reported in 2021, 151 were under 19. While bad weather, bad drivers, and bad roads can lead to accidents, these are beyond a driver’s control. What isn’t beyond a driver’s control is making sure that everyone in the vehicle is buckled up.

Some people, however, don’t like the seat belt strap going over their shoulders, so they put them behind their backs or under their arms. However, if you do that, the seat belt won’t work as intended in case of an accident. 

For example, if you hit another vehicle at high speed, the seat belt won’t keep you from being thrown out of the windshield, which is almost always fatal. If you don’t wear a seat belt properly, it’s like you’re not wearing one at all.

Death and injury

The most concerning issue with not wearing seat belts is the death and injury of passengers and drivers. Many preventable deaths and injuries from traffic accidents happen annually because of not wearing seat belts. 

In 2021, 1,768 people died and 116,203 people sustained injuries from motor vehicle accidents in Canada. About two-thirds (64.2 percent) of people who died weren’t wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.

Even if just one person isn’t wearing a seat belt, others in the vehicle can die or sustain serious injuries. This is because three different collisions happen in a car accident. Of course, the first is the vehicle when it hits another object, such as another car, a tree, or a wall. The second is humans when passengers hit things in the car. The last is internal, when the person’s internal organs, including the brain, move around.

The dynamics of a car accident are interesting. When a car suddenly stops because it hits something, everything else in the vehicle continues to move forward at the same speed. For example, If you’re travelling on a highway at 100 kph and rear-end another car, you and everything else in your vehicle continue to travel at 100 kph until something stops you. Seat belts do that in concert with airbags.

However, a person who isn’t wearing a seat belt has nothing to stop them. They may hit the back of a seat, the front windshield, or another occupant. Not only will they suffer serious injuries, but they’ll also injure everyone they hit. 

When colliding with others, a 150-pound unrestrained adult can exert as much force as a 3.5-ton truck. Moreover, belted occupants are 4.8 times more at risk of injury and death with someone who isn’t wearing a seat belt during an accident.

Increased medical costs

While death is the ultimate tragedy from not wearing a seat belt, injuries can also be devastating. Unbelted car accident victims tend to have more severe injuries than those wearing a seat belt, which also means higher medical bills. The trauma of being ejected from a vehicle can have significant physical, mental, and emotional effects.

One US study compared the medical costs of restrained and unrestrained car accident victims. It indicated that unrestrained victims were 59 percent more likely to be hospitalized, and that they also needed to stay in the hospital three days longer.

The injury severity scores (ISS) for unrestrained victims were 8.28 compared to 4.44 for restrained victims. Furthermore, 20 percent more for those with an ISS of 15 or more were unrestrained victims.

As you can imagine, more extended hospital stays, high ISS scores, and requiring more intensive medical care mean higher bills. The annual cost of car accidents in Canada in 2021 was more than $25 billion. While not all the cost is attributable to unrestrained victims, a significant portion of these expenses could have been easily prevented.

Lower personal injury settlements

Canadian courts are generally skeptical in negligence claims. They have consistently reduced compensation when victims contribute to the accident.

Sometimes, they even dismiss the case, which the Supreme Court of Canada did in Galaske v O’Donnell. The plaintiff was a child who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. The child was with a parent who wasn’t the driver. The respondent’s defence was that the parent should have insisted that the child wear a seat belt.

However, most cases aren’t so drastic. Take, for example, Froom v Butcher, which is a case from 1975. Since the plaintiff wasn’t wearing a seat belt, the judge reduced the award by 20 percent, saying that they contributed to the accident. 

The reduction of damages for not wearing a seat belt will depend on the case and the skill of your personal injury lawyer. However, it typically falls between 5 and 25 percent.

Unrestrained crash victims can still file personal injury lawsuits. However, they must accept that their award of damages may be reduced. They may also need to provide evidence that not using a seat belt did not contribute in any way to the injury.

Increased insurance rates

Insurance companies consider the risks they take when issuing policies to drivers. When calculating insurance rates, these companies look at any offences, including seat belt tickets.

While one seat belt ticket may not significantly impact your premium, repeated offences might. A seat belt ticket is a minor offence, typically resulting in fines and demerits on your driving record.

In Ontario, you get two demerits on your license for not wearing a seat belt. If, however, you have a full driver’s licence and get over 15 demerit points within two years, your licence will be suspended for 30 days and you’ll need to surrender your licence to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Insurance companies track demerits to determine the type of tickets you get. A ticket for stunt driving or speeding may require you to go to court. If you get a conviction, your insurance rate will significantly increase. 

Seat belt tickets won’t directly lead to higher premiums. However, if you get a license suspension for any reason, such as too many demerits, it may. Sometimes, insurers may even refuse to cover you for suspensions due to risky behaviour, such as impaired driving.

Seat Belt Laws

Provinces and territories have their own laws regarding the use of seat belts. Since they’re all primary enforcement laws, police are allowed to pull you over for not wearing a seat belt.

Below is a brief description of seat belt laws in Canada by province. Note that each jurisdiction provides specific exemptions.


Seat belts date back to the 1800s. However, it was only in 1976 that the first seat belt law was passed in North America. 

Section 106 of the Highway Traffic Act requires all persons 16 and older in a motor vehicle to wear a seat belt. The driver is responsible for ensuring passengers under 16 are wearing a seat belt. Moreover, it must be a three-point seat belt assembly, as specified under Section 208 (1) of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.


Part 5 of the Alberta Traffic Safety Act specifies that all drivers and passengers must wear a seatbelt. The driver is responsible for securing children from 6 to 15. 

Drivers with learner or probationary (GDL) licenses may not have more passengers than seatbelts. Children under six, or who weigh less than 18 kgs, must be in an approved child restraint. Drivers who violate these rules may receive a $162 fine. GDL drivers get two demerit points for having more passengers than seat belts.

British Columbia

Section 220 of the Motor Vehicle Act requires everyone in a motor vehicle to wear a seat belt. The seat belt must include a pelvic restraint, upper torso restraint, or both. Persons in vehicle seats with separate pelvic and torso restraints may only use the pelvic restraint. Children under six must be in a child seat that’s also securely restrained.

The penalty for not wearing a seatbelt is $167, plus a 15 percent surcharge, for each unrestrained person in the vehicle. You’ll also be fined $311, plus victim surcharges, if you have more passengers than seat belts. If, however, you pay the fine within 30 days, your fine will be reduced by $25.


Section 186 of the Highway Traffic Act of Manitoba requires all drivers and passengers to wear a seat belt. Depending on the minor’s age, drivers must make sure that they’re safe in either child restraint seats or an adult seat belt assembly. They shouldn’t secure child car seats or booster seats to the vehicle with automatic seat belt assemblies. 

Unrestrained drivers and passengers may be liable for a fine of up to $2,000.

New Brunswick

Section 200.1 of the Motor Vehicle Act requires all motor vehicle passengers to wear a seat belt. The vehicle can’t have more passengers than seat belts. 

It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure that passengers aged 9 to 15 are secured. Children up to 8 years old, 36 kgs, or 145 cm, must be in child safety seats. 

If the driver isn’t wearing a seat belt, they may be fined $180 and get two demerit points.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Section 178 of the Highway Traffic Act requires all persons in a vehicle on a highway to wear seat belts. The driver can’t have more passengers than seat belts. Children up to eight years old must be in a child seat restraint system. 

Violating any part of this provision can result in a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum fine of $500.

Northwest Territories

Section 146 of the Motor Vehicles Act requires all persons in a motor vehicle to wear a seat belt. Drivers are responsible for making sure that everyone under 15 is wearing a seat belt. Children of a “prescribed” size or weight must stay in a child restraint system. 

Failure to wear a seat belt carries a fine of $172.

Nova Scotia

Section 175 of the Motor Vehicle Act doesn’t require drivers or passengers 16 and older to wear a seat belt if it’s not available. However, the driver must make sure that a passenger under 16 is wearing a seat belt. Children of a prescribed weight and age must be in a child restraint system. 

The first offence under this section carries a fine of $180 and two demerits. The penalty for the second offence is $237.50, and $352.50 for the third offence.

Prince Edward Island

Section 92 of the Highway Traffic Act requires passengers to wear seat belts if they’re available. Drivers must secure young children in an appropriate child restraint system. 

There’s a fine of $200 to $500 for violating this provision.


Section 395-397 of the Highway Safety Code requires everyone in the vehicle to wear a seat belt. Children under nine, or less than 145 cm, must be in a child restraint or booster seat. However, a child seat is not mandatory if the vehicle has no provision. 

Violating these sections will result in a fine ranging from $200 to $300 and three demerits.


Section 248 of the Traffic Safety Act requires drivers and passengers 16 and older to wear a seat belt if they’re available. It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure that passengers under 16 are wearing a seat belt. Children under seven, weighing 18 to 36 kgs or who are less than 145 cm, must be in a booster seat. Children less than 18 kgs must be in an appropriate child restraint system. 

Violating this provision carries a fine of $175 and three demerits.


Section 198 of the Motor Vehicles Act requires all persons in the vehicle to wear seat belts. Car owners must also make sure that all seat belts are operative. Violating this section carries a fine of no more than $500.

Quick Tips on Seat Belt Wear for Maximum Safety

Using seat belts properly is the best way to maximize your safety in a vehicle, and you should do the following to make sure that you and everyone in the vehicle are safe:

  • Make wearing seat belts a habit, especially for younger people
  • Implement a no seat belt, no ride rule
  • Check the fit to ensure comfort, and buy seat belt adjusters or extenders to customize them when needed
  • Wear a seat belt even when pregnant (if possible)
  • Use the seat belt in conjunction with airbags

Did you know?

An unrestrained adult in a vehicle travelling at 55 km/h in a crash experiences a force similar to dropping 10.5 meters straight down. That’s like dropping off the roof of a three-storey house.

Prioritize Seat Belt Wear for Maximum Safety

There was a time when people fiercely fought against mandatory seat belt wear because they didn’t think they needed it. However, time has revealed that seat belts are the most effective way to reduce the risk of fatal injuries in motor vehicle accidents. Therefore, most Canadians use their seat belts according to regional laws.

Unfortunately, seat belts can’t prevent all injuries. If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident because of someone else’s negligence, you can get compensation even if you weren’t wearing a seat belt. 

Diamond & Diamond Lawyers can help you get the compensation you deserve. Our team of experienced car accident lawyers have thorough knowledge of personal injury law and the civil court system.

We also offer a free case evaluation to assess your case. Find out more by calling us today.

You can still file a lawsuit if you suffered injuries while unbuckled in a negligent car accident. Call Diamond and Diamond Lawyers today!

Leave a Reply


FAQS on Seat Belt Wear for Maximum Safety

What is considered a properly worn seat belt?

Do seat belts cause injuries?

What are some exemptions to wearing a seatbelt in Ontario?




Get the help you deserve


Call NOW for a free consultation


Diamond & Diamond Ontario Head Office

255 Consumers Road, 5th Floor, Toronto, Ontario

>> Learn More

Diamond & Diamond Alberta Head Office

4246 97 Street NW, Unit 103, Edmonton, Alberta

>> Learn More

Diamond & Diamond British Columbia Head Office

1727 West Broadway, Suite 400, Vancouver, British Columbia

>> Learn More


168 Bayfield Street


1331 Macleod Trail SE, Suite 645


2713 14 St SW


600 Crowfoot Crescent NW #240


4246 97 Street NW, Unit 103


256 Pall Mall St, Suite 102

Oakville / Mississauga

2939 Portland Drive, Suite 200


50 Richmond Street E, Unit # 108 B


955 Green Valley Crescent, Unit 315


31 Larch Street, Unit 300


1104 – 13737 96 Ave, Surrey, BC V3V 0C6


255 Consumers Road, 5th Floor


1678 Bloor Street, Suite 302


1727 West Broadway, Suite 400


13158 Tecumseh Rd. E. Unit 3B