The proportion of car occupants killed in crashes who were not wearing a seatbelt has reached the highest level on record, figures show.
Some 30% of people killed in cars on Britain’s roads last year were not wearing a seatbelt, according to data published by the Department for Transport (DfT).
That is up from 23% during the previous 12 months and represents the highest annual percentage in records dating back to 2013, when the figure was just 19%.
The AA said the ending of pandemic lockdowns may have partly sparked the rise.
Crash victims aged 17-29 were the most likely to be unrestrained in 2021, at 40%.
Some 34% of male fatalities of all ages were not wearing a seatbelt, compared with 20% of females.
Car occupants killed during journeys at night or early in the morning – between 6pm and 8am – were much more likely to be unrestrained (47%) than those who died in the daytime (22%).
Passengers killed were more likely to be unrestrained than drivers, at 37% and 28% respectively.
AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens said: “This is a dreadful jump in road deaths where wearing a seatbelt may well have been the difference between surviving or dying in a road crash.
“Release from pandemic lockdowns may have fuelled some of the surge, but the rate of death while not wearing a seatbelt was surging even before Covid.
“There may need to be a road safety campaign to raise the danger once again. Clearly, the message is being forgotten.”
A survey conducted in autumn last year suggested 95% of drivers and front seat passengers wore a seatbelt, compared with just 92% of rear seat passengers.
Drivers can be fined up to £500 if they are caught not wearing a seatbelt.