Hundreds of people, including six children, were caught not wearing seatbelts during a Hampshire police crackdown this month.

One motorist told officers he did not want to ruin his tan, while others said they never wore a seatbelt and would still not wear one because it was their right.

The operation, part of a Europe-wide campaign, ran from March 10 to 16.

Since 1983 it has been law to wear a seat belt in a vehicle except for a few rare exceptions, but Hampshire police still caught 441 people not wearing one in just seven days.

Those caught face a fine of up to £500 or the chance to go on an awareness course as an alternative.

Officers also reported 61 other offences, from motorists using a mobile phone while driving to having defective tyres or no insurance.

Sergeant Rob Heard, Hampshire’s road safety officer, said: “It has been surprising how many people are still not wearing their seat belts and not really understanding the risks they are putting themselves under.

“The devastating injuries, or possible fatal injuries, you can receive from not wearing a seat belt really should encourage everyone to belt up. It is just not worth risking your life and the heartache your family will feel from your loss.”

Sgt Heard said research shows half of all people who die in a car accident in the EU could have survived if they had worn a seat belt.

He added that Hampshire officers found the biggest excuse offered was forgetting to wear the belt.

“Many of those caught not wearing a seat belt were van drivers who state they wear the belts in their cars but forget to wear them in their vans when at work, sometimes because they are only travelling short distances.

“The law states you must wear a seat belt unless you are driving a goods vehicle on deliveries and are travelling no more than 50 metres between stops.”

Sgt Heard said of the excuses given to officers for not wearing seat belts, the man who did not want to ruin his tan was one of the more interesting.

“Due to the recent sunny weather he had caught a tan to his chest and felt the belt would wear some of the tan away,” said Sgt Heard.

“A couple of people stated they never wore a seat belt and would still not wear one because they felt that was their right. Others complained that their seat belt did not fit them.

“However, adjusters and extenders are available and it is not a valid excuse.”

Sgt Heard said the majority of people do wear seat belts but everyone should be encouraged to do so.

“We will continue to stop anyone who is seen not wearing a belt,” he added.