Document reveals seatbelt struggle

A secret document has revealed how the Government struggled to introduce compulsory seatbelts for over a decade.

After a 1970 Cabinet committee decided that everyone should buckle up, researchers identified the elderly as people who would present problems.

One minister argued "some persons of advanced age are unable... to cope with fastening, adjusting and unfastening belts", according to documents released by The National Archives.

It was also suggested that belts might be a problem for milkmen during their regularly stop-and-start journeys on their milk round. And the police also might have a hard time enforcing it.

The idea of compulsion triggered "strong feelings" among many people who saw it as a "curtailment of personal liberty," one Government official argued.

Keen to get the measure introduced, the Government commissioned a feasibility study which found that some elderly people would rather sacrifice a day out involving a car trip than "put up with the nuisance involved in what they regard as an unnecessary new-fangled idea."

The study also notes "available belts are unsuitable to some persons with abnormal skeletal structure such as dwarfs and hunchbacks, to the particularly obese, and to a lesser extent, abnormally tall persons."

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