Seat belt legislation in the United States

Seat belt legislation in the United States

Most Seat belt legislation in the United States is left to the states. However, the first seat belt law was a federal law which took effect on January 1, 1968 and required all vehicles (except buses) to be fitted with seatbelts in all designated seating positions. Since then this law was modified to require 3-point seatbelts in outboard seating positions, and finally 3-point seatbelts in all seating positions. Seatbelt use was not compulsory. New York was the first state to pass a law which required vehicle occupants to wear seatbelts with effect from December 1, 1984.

U.S. seatbelt legislation may be subject to Primary enforcement or Secondary enforcement. Primary enforcement allows a police officer to stop and ticket a driver if he observes a violation. Secondary enforcement means that a police officer may only stop or cite a driver for a seatbelt violation if the driver committed another, primary, violation (such as speeding, running a stop sign, etc.) at the same time. As of January 2007, 25 states and the District of Columbia have primary laws, 24 states have secondary laws, and one state (New Hampshire) has no law requiring seat belt use for adults.

The laws by state

This table contains a brief summary of all seatbelt laws in the United States [ [ Safety belt use laws ] ] . This list includes only seatbelt laws, which often do not themselves apply to children; however, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have separate child restraint laws, including a law in Massachusetts requiring anyone sitting in the front seat to be at least 5 feet tall and 100 pounds. Keep in mind these fines are the base fines only before in many cases considerable extra fees for such as the head injury fund, court security fees can mark up the fine to almost 5 times as much in some cases. These are also "first offense" fines. A subsequent offense may be much higher.

1North Carolina's law is Secondary Enforcement for rear seat occupants.
2These states assess points on one's driving record for the seat belt violation.
3In California- An additional penalty of $24 shall be levied upon every $10 or fraction thereof, of every fine, penalty, or forfeitureimposed by and collected by the court for criminal offenses, including all traffic offenses, except parking offenses as defined insubdivision (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 convictionfor a criminal offense, including a traffic offense, except parking offenses as defined in Penal Code § 1463,$20
4 Virginia's Law is Secondary for adults but Primary for under the age of 16.

econdary enforcement

In 24 out 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 offence of not wearing a seatbelt. (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 seatbelt. 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 26 states with primary seat belt laws, all but 8, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas, originally had only secondary enforcement laws.

Damages reduction

A person involved in a car accident who was not using a seatbelt may be liable for damages far greater than if they had been using a seatbelt. However, when in court, most states protect motorists from having their damages reduced in a lawsuit due to the nonuse of a seatbelt, even if they were acting in violation of the law by not wearing the seatbelt. Currently, damages may be reduced for the nonuse of a seatbelt in 14 states [ [ Child restraint/belt use laws ] ] : Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.


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