Lately I have been wondering why in the UK public buses do not require that the passengers wear a seat belt? In-fact, in the UK it is my understanding that no public buses actually have seat belts.

I also have the same understanding in regards to private coaches. While most private coaches do come with seat belts as far as I'm aware you're not required to wear one.

I find it strange since in a car you're required to wear a seat belt by law. It strikes me as odd that buses do not have the same requirements since this seems to imply that the bus is somehow safer or drivers are more qualified, yet bus accidents do happen!

Is there any specific mention of this in any UK legislation?

  • 1
    The reason for it being is that a bus is a lot heavier than a regular car. Thus in an accident, the bus (and its passengers) will be much better off than a regular car. Furthermore, in Austria, all buses come with seatbelts and a sticker saying that you need to wear it. Yet I have never seen anyone wearing a seatbelt in a bus.
    – MechMK1
    Dec 20 '19 at 9:34
  • That's a fair point but it still doesn't make sense, for example the passengers at the front of the bus will still go flying 15ft forwards if the bus brakes hard, we can test this theory by sitting at the front of a bus and waiting for them to brake, you have to use your feet to stop yourself flying off the chair into the windshield. For passengers in seats directly behind others it's not really a problem but in the front seats it's a massive problem still.
    – user24806
    Dec 20 '19 at 9:38
  • @J.J In the US, this question tends to come up with regard to school buses, which also do not require seat belts. Here's (one of many) articles that you might find interesting: liveabout.com/why-dont-buses-have-seatbelts-2798819
    – Just a guy
    Dec 20 '19 at 19:05

Based on another Jurasdiction (Germany) the main criteria for when seat belt are not required seems to be

  • that peaple are allowed to stand during transport

The UK Guidance Seatbelts on urban buses of 2010 confirms this with:

General requirements
Since 1 October 2001, seat belts have been required to be installed in each forward and rearward facing seat in all new buses. The use of an approved and properly fitted restraint system can help prevent death or serious injury, not only by restraining the occupant from forward motion but also by preventing their ejection from the vehicle, particularly in accidents where the vehicle rolls over.

The only exemption from this requirement is for buses that are designed for urban use with standing passengers. An exemption is permitted for these vehicles because they are typically used for short journeys, in both time and distance, undertaken at moderate speeds on urban routes. Although we are aware that vehicles equipped with seat belts are used by some operators for urban fare paying services, ultimately, it is for the operator to choose the type of vehicle used to provide a service.

So for vehicles that contain seat belts, their usage is required.

Commission Directive 96/36/EC of 17 June 1996 also makes a sole exception using this terminology:

  • both urban use and standing passengers

Whereas it is possible to improve the protection provided for passengers against ejection in case of an accident by requiring a minimum of lap belts with retractors for all forward and rear-facing seating positions in motor vehicle sof categories M2 and M3, and in the case of certain M2 vehicles lap and diagonal belts, as foreseen in Directive 90/628/EEC (except those vehicles which are designed for both urban use and standing passengers);

Road Traffic Regulations (StVO)
Section 21a Seat belts, wheelchair restraint systems, wheelchair user restraint systems, protective helmets

(1) Mandatory seat belts must be worn while driving; this also applies to mandatory wheelchair restraint systems and mandatory wheelchair user restraint systems. This does not apply to

  1. (Deleted)
  2. People in door-to-door traffic if they have to leave their vehicle regularly at short intervals in the respective service or delivery district,
  3. Walking at walking pace such as reversing, driving in parking lots,
  4. Journeys in buses and coaches which are permitted to carry standing passengers,
  5. the operating staff in buses and coaches and the accompanying staff of groups in need of special care during the services that require leaving the seat,
  6. Passengers in buses and coaches with a gross vehicle weight of more than 3.5 t when leaving the seat for a short time.



  • This exactly the answer that I was looking for! I figured it would be something to do with the fact standing is permitted but I wasn't totally sure.
    – user24806
    Dec 20 '19 at 10:37
  • @J.J Still haven't found where this is explicitly definded though. Dec 20 '19 at 10:38
  • I guess you would have to contact here - ivs.enquiries@dft.gov.uk for some official legal documentation :D
    – user24806
    Dec 20 '19 at 10:40
  • @MarkJohnson Good find. I'd bet the exception is a symptom of the rule about buses, not its cause. The exception does raise the question "Why are people allowed to stand on buses?" I'd bet standing is very dangerous if there is an accident. My hunch is the answer is a combination of the fact that buses are safer than cars, in that fewer people get injured/mile on buses than cars, and the high cost of putting seat belts on buses. But that's just my hunch.
    – Just a guy
    Dec 20 '19 at 19:08
  • @Justaguy Also undertaken at moderate speeds would probably be a criteria for allowing peaple to stand. Dec 20 '19 at 19:12

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