Seat belt laws in the United States

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Seat belt laws for front seat passengers in the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the 5 inhabited U.S. territories.
  No enforcement for adults (primary enforcement for minors)
  Secondary enforcement
  Secondary enforcement; primary under certain ages
  Primary enforcement

Most seat belt laws in the United States are left to the states and territories. However, the first seat belt law was a federal law, Title 49 of the United States Code, Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, which took effect on January 1, 1968, that required all vehicles (except buses) to be fitted with seat belts in all designated seating positions.[1] This law has since been modified to require three-point seat belts in outboard-seating positions, and finally three-point seat belts in all seating positions.[2] Initially, seat belt use was voluntary. New York was the first state to pass a law which required vehicle occupants to wear seat belts, a law that came into effect on December 1, 1984. New Hampshire is the only state that has no enforceable laws for the wearing of seat belts in a vehicle.[3]

Primary and secondary enforcement[edit]

U.S. seat belt laws may be subject to primary enforcement or secondary enforcement. Primary enforcement allows a police officer to stop and ticket a driver if he or she observes a violation. Secondary enforcement means that a police officer may only stop or cite a driver for a seat belt violation if the driver committed another primary violation (such as speeding, running a stop sign, etc.) at the same time. New Hampshire is the only U.S. state that does not by law require adult drivers to wear safety belts while operating a motor vehicle.

In 15 of the 50 states, the seat belt law is considered a secondary offense, which means that a police officer cannot stop and ticket a driver for the sole offense of not wearing a seat belt. (One exception to this is Colorado, where children not properly restrained is a primary offense and brings a much larger fine.) If a driver commits a primary violation (e.g., for speeding) he may additionally be charged for not wearing a seat belt. In most states the seat belt law was originally a secondary offense; in many it was later changed to a primary offense: California was the first state to do this, in 1993. Of the 30 with primary seat belt laws, all but 8, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Oregon, originally had only secondary enforcement laws.

34 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have primary enforcement laws for front seats.[4][3]

Laws by state and territory[edit]

This table contains a brief summary of all seat belt laws in the United States.[5][3] This list includes only seat belt laws, which often do not themselves apply to children; however, all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and all 5 inhabited U.S. territories have separate child restraint laws.[note 1] Keep in mind these fines are the base fines only. In many cases considerable extra fees such as the head injury fund and court security fees can mark up the fine to almost five times as much in some cases. These are also "first offense" fines; a subsequent offense may be much higher.

23 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands had seat belt usage rates of 90% or higher in 2017.[7]

State,
federal district,
or territory
Type of law Date of first law Who is covered Base fine before fees Seat Belt Usage
(2017)[7][note 2]
 Alabama Primary Enforcement July 18, 1991 Age 15+ in front seats $25 92.9%
 Alaska Primary Enforcement September 12, 1990 Age 16+ in all seats $15 ($25 actual) 90.1%
 American Samoa Primary Enforcement[4] ? All people (all ages) in front seats[8] $25[8] 84.9%
 Arizona Secondary Enforcement January 1, 1991 Age 8+ in front seats; Age 8–15 in all seats $10 ($37.20 actual) 86.1%
 Arkansas Primary Enforcement July 15, 1991 Age 15+ in front seats $25 81.0%
 California Primary Enforcement January 1, 1986 All ages in all seats[9][10] $20 ($162 actual) $50 second offense ($190 actual)5 96.2%
 Colorado Secondary Enforcement1 exception Mountain View where it is a primary violation[11] July 1, 1987 Age 16+ in front seats $71 83.8%
 Connecticut Primary Enforcement January 1, 1986 Age 7+ in front seats $92 90.3%
 Delaware Primary Enforcement January 1, 1992 Age 16+ in all seats $25 91.4%
 District of Columbia Primary Enforcement December 12, 1985 Age 16+ in all seats $504 93.6%
 Florida Primary Enforcement July 1, 1986 6+ years in front seat; 6 through 17 years in all seats $30 ($116 actual) 90.2%
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia Primary Enforcement September 1, 1988 Age 8–17 in all seats; Age 18+ in front seats $15 97.1%
 Guam Primary Enforcement ? All people (all ages) in all seats $100 91.0%
 Hawaii Primary Enforcement December 16, 1985 Age 8+ in all seats $45 ($112 actual) 96.9%
 Idaho Secondary Enforcement2 July 1, 1986 Age 7+ in all seats $10 ($51.50 actual) 81.2%
 Illinois Primary Enforcement January 1, 1988 Age 16+ in all seats $25 ($60 actual or $95 if choosing traffic school) 93.8%
 Indiana Primary Enforcement July 1, 1987 Age 16+ in all seats $25 93.0%
 Iowa Primary Enforcement July 1, 1986 All ages in front seats; under 18 in rear seats[12] $25 ($127.50 actual) 91.4%
 Kansas Primary Enforcement3 July 1, 1986 Age 14+ in all seats $60 for age 14-17; $10 for 18+ 82.0%
 Kentucky Primary Enforcement July 15, 1994 Age 7 and younger and more than 57 inches in all seats; 8+ in all seats $25 86.8%
 Louisiana Primary Enforcement July 1, 1986 Age 13+ in front seats $25 87.1%
 Maine Primary Enforcement December 26, 1995 Age 18+ in all seats $50 88.9%
 Maryland Primary Enforcement3 July 1, 1986 Age 16+ in all seats $83 92.1%
 Massachusetts Secondary Enforcement February 1, 1994 Age 13+ in all seats[13] $25 73.7%
 Michigan Primary Enforcement July 1, 1985 Age 16+ in front seats $25 ($65 actual) 94.1%
 Minnesota Primary Enforcement August 1, 1986 7 and younger and more than 57 inches in all seats; 8+ in all seats $25 + $75 fee 92.0%
 Mississippi Primary Enforcement July 1, 1994 Age 7+ in all seats $25 78.8%
 Missouri Secondary Enforcement1 September 28, 1985 Age 16+ in front seats; age 8-15 in all seats $10 for age 16+; $50 for age 8-15 84.0%
 Montana Secondary Enforcement October 1, 1987 Age 6+ in all seats $20 78.0%
 Nebraska Secondary Enforcement January 1, 1993 Age 18+ in front seats $25 85.9%
 Nevada Secondary Enforcement July 1, 1987 Age 6+ in all seats $25 90.6%
 New Hampshire None, Primary for children only No law Age 17 and under in all seats $50 67.6%
 New Jersey Primary Enforcement3 March 1, 1985 Age 8+ in all seats $46 per person 94.1%
 New Mexico Primary Enforcement January 1, 1986 Age 18+ in all seats $254 91.5%
New York (state) New York Primary Enforcement December 1, 1984 Age 16+ in front seats; under 16 in all seats $50 ($135 Actual after surcharges)[14] 93.4%
 North Carolina Primary Enforcement, Secondary for Backseat[15] October 1, 1985 All ages in all seats $179 for front seat; $10 for rear seat 91.4%
  North Dakota Secondary Enforcement2 July 14, 1994 Age 18+ in front seats;

under 18 in all seats

$20 for age 18+; $25 + 1 point on license for under 184 79.3%
 Northern Mariana Islands Primary Enforcement ? Riders 6+ in age, in all seats $25 92.2%
 Ohio Secondary Enforcement May 6, 1986 Age 15+ in front seat; 8–14 in all seats $30 for driver; $20 for passenger 82.8%
 Oklahoma Primary Enforcement February 1, 1987 Age 13+ in front seats $20 86.9%
 Oregon Primary Enforcement December 7, 1990 All ages in all seats $130 96.8%
 Pennsylvania Secondary Enforcement2 November 23, 1987 Age 18+ in front seats; age 8-17 in all seats $10 85.6%
 Puerto Rico Primary Enforcement ? Age 9+ or 57’’ and over;
seating unspecified
$50 87.9%
 Rhode Island Primary Enforcement June 18, 1991 Age 8+ in all seats $75 88.3%
 South Carolina Primary Enforcement July 1, 1989 Age 6+ in all seats $25 92.3%
 South Dakota Secondary Enforcement January 1, 1995 Age 18+ in front seats $25 74.8%
 Tennessee Primary Enforcement April 21, 1986 Age 16+ in front seats $25 88.5%
 Texas Primary Enforcement September 1, 1985 Age 7 years and younger and 57 inches or taller in all seats; age 8+ years in all seats $200 if under 17 (driver); $50 if over 15 (driver or passenger) 91.9%
 Utah Primary Enforcement April 28, 1986 All ages in all seats $45 88.8%
 Vermont Secondary Enforcement2 January 1, 1994 All ages in all seats $25 84.5%
United States Virgin Islands Virgin Islands (U.S.) Primary Enforcement ? All people (all ages) in front seats $25 to $250 79.1%
 Virginia Secondary Enforcement2 January 1, 1988 All drivers; age 18+ in front seats; under 18 in all seats $25 85.3%
Wake Island Primary Enforcement[6] April 10, 2002[6] All people (all ages)[6] ? No data
Washington (state) Washington Primary Enforcement June 11, 1986 Age 8+ in all seats $124 94.8%
 West Virginia Primary Enforcement September 1, 1993 All ages in front seats; 8–17 in rear seats $25 89.7%
 Wisconsin Primary Enforcement December 1, 1987 Age 8+ in all seats $10 89.4%
 Wyoming Secondary Enforcement June 8, 1989 Age 9+ in all seats $25 for driver; $10 for passenger 84.8%

1 Colorado and Missouri's law is Secondary for adults but Primary for under the age of 16.

2 Idaho, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia's law is Secondary for adults but Primary for under 18.

3 Kansas, Maryland, and New Jersey, law is Secondary Enforcement for rear seat occupants (18+ in Kansas).
4 These states assess points on one's driving record for the seat belt violation.
5 In California- An additional penalty of $24 shall be levied upon every $10 or fraction thereof, of every fine, penalty, or forfeiture imposed by and collected by the court for criminal offenses, including all traffic offenses, except parking offenses as defined in subdivision (i) of Penal Code § 1463. The additional penalty is calculated as follows:

• State penalty required by PC 1464 $10,

• County penalty required by GC 76000(e), $ 7 • Court facilities construction penalty required by GC 70372(a),$ 3 • DNA Identification Fund penalty required by GC 76104.6 and 76104.7,$ 2

• Emergency medical services penalty required by GC 76000.5,$ 2

Penal Code § 1465.8 requires imposition of an additional fee of twenty dollars ($20) for court security on every conviction for a criminal offense, including a traffic offense, except parking offenses as defined in Penal Code § 1463,$20

Note: As of 2017, seat belt usage rate in the entire United States is 89.7%.[7]

Damages reduction[edit]

A person involved in a car accident who was not using a seat belt may be liable for damages far greater than if they had been using a seat belt. However, when in court, most states protect motorists from having their damages reduced in a lawsuit due to the non-use of a seat belt, even if they were acting in violation of the law by not wearing the seat belt. Currently, damages may be reduced for the non-use of a seat belt in 16 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida (See F.S.A. 316.614(10)), Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.[16]

Effectiveness[edit]

Seat belt laws are effective in reducing car crash deaths.[17] One study found that mandatory-seatbelt laws reduced traffic fatalities by 8% and serious traffic-related injuries by 9%, respectively.[18] Primary-seatbelt laws seem to be more effective at reducing crash deaths than secondary laws.[19][20]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ One territory in the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands (Wake Island) requires all occupants of vehicles to wear seat belts.[6]
  2. ^ 2016 rate for the Virgin Islands.

References[edit]

  1. ^ US Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (January 1, 1968). "Title 49 of the United States Code, Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208 - Occupant Crash Protection Passenger Cars".
  2. ^ US Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (January 1, 1968). "Title 49 of the United States Code, Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208 - Occupant Crash Protection Passenger Cars".
  3. ^ a b c https://www.ghsa.org/state-laws/issues/seat_belts. [Note: Remove the underscore in the URL and replace it with a space]. Governors highway safety association. Ghsa.org. State laws - Issues: Seat Belts. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  4. ^ a b https://cars.laws.com/seat-belt-laws-in-the-us Cars.laws.com. A Guide to Seat Belt Laws in the United States. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  5. ^ "Safety belt use laws". Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-30.
  6. ^ a b c d https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2002/04/09/02-8303/wake-island-code — Federal Register. Wake Island Code. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812546 — Seat Belt Use in 2017 – Use Rates in the States and Territories. U.S. Department of Transportation — National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (Traffic Safety Facts — June 2018.) Retrieved July 2019.
  8. ^ a b http://www.asbar.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=583&Itemid=172 — American Samoa Bar Association. Title 22 - Highways and Motor Vehicles — Chapter 03 — Rule of the Road — 22.0333 Mandatory use of seat belts. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  9. ^ "California Driver Handbook - Occupant Protection". Retrieved 2018-12-20.
  10. ^ "California Highway Patrol Child Passenger Safety Laws and Guidelines" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-12-20.
  11. ^ 9News Jeremy Jojola on Denver Metro Speed Traps. 9News. 8 June 2015.
  12. ^ "Iowa Seat Belt Law Guide" (PDF).
  13. ^ MGL PartI TitleXIV Chapter90 Section13a See also: the child passenger restraint law
  14. ^ "vehicle and traffic state mandated surcharges $85 for seat belt". Horseheads.org. Retrieved 2011-07-16.
  15. ^ "Court costs and fees chart" (PDF). NCCourts.gov. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  16. ^ "Child restraint/belt use laws". Iihs.org. Retrieved 2011-07-16.
  17. ^ Cohen, Alma; Einav, Liran (November 2003). "The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities". Review of Economics and Statistics. 85 (4): 828–843. doi:10.1162/003465303772815754.
  18. ^ Carpenter, Christopher S.; Stehr, Mark (May 2008). "The effects of mandatory seatbelt laws on seatbelt use, motor vehicle fatalities, and crash-related injuries among youths". Journal of Health Economics. 27 (3): 642–662. doi:10.1016/j.jhealeco.2007.09.010. PMID 18242744.
  19. ^ Lee, Lois K.; Monuteaux, Michael C.; Burghardt, Lindsey C.; Fleegler, Eric W.; Nigrovic, Lise E.; Meehan, William P.; Schutzman, Sara A.; Mannix, Rebekah (4 August 2015). "Motor Vehicle Crash Fatalities in States With Primary Versus Secondary Seat Belt Laws". Annals of Internal Medicine. 163 (3): 184–90. doi:10.7326/M14-2368. PMID 26098590.
  20. ^ Rivara, FrederickP.; Thompson, DianeC.; Cummings, Peter (January 1999). "Effectiveness of primary and secondary enforced seat belt laws". American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 16 (1): 30–39. doi:10.1016/S0749-3797(98)00113-5.