AN estimated 800 lives have been saved in the North-East since the mandatory wearing of seat-belts for front-seat passengers was introduced 20 years ago today.

Government figures released today show that since the regulations were introduced, front seat-belts are estimated to have saved 800 lives, 8,000 serious casualties and 35,000 minor casualties in the region.

In North Yorkshire an estimated 2,500 lives have been saved and across the country the figure is believed to be 50,000 - equivalent to seven lives every day.

Commenting on the figures, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said: "It is now second nature to wear a seat-belt and I'm pleased that the action of successive governments has helped save so many lives and improve safety on our roads."

But road safety charity Brake said too many lives are still needlessly lost because a significant minority of people do not routinely belt up. It called on the Government to do more.

Brake has released its own research that shows one in ten children are still unrestrained in the back of cars; four in ten adults do not always belt up in the back seat; and six in ten people do not wear seat-belts in taxis.

Mary Williams, chief executive of Brake, said: "Alistair Darling said it is now second nature to belt up, but for a significant minority of people this is tragically untrue.

"How many times have you seen groups of young people driving around in cars without anybody wearing a seat- belt?

"The Government must take decisive action to cut the number of people who die unnecessarily because they won't wear their seat-belt."

Brake is calling for increased numbers of traffic police, £1,000 fines for not wearing a belt and more hard-hitting campaigns.