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Seat belt legislation in the United States

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Title: Seat belt legislation in the United States  
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Subject: Bill Keating (politician), Transportation in the United States
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Seat belt legislation in the United States

Seat belt laws for front seat passengers in the U.S. as of 2009
  Primary enforcement
  Secondary enforcement, but primary under certain ages
  Secondary enforcement
  Primary enforcement for minors, no enforcement for adults

Most seat belt legislation in the United States is left to the states. 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. Initially, seat belt use was not compulsory. 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.

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. 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.

The laws by state

This table contains a brief summary of all seatbelt laws in the United States.[2][3] 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. 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.

State Type of law Date of first law Who is covered Base fine before fees Usage[4]
Alabama Primary Enforcement July 18, 1991 Age 15+ in front seats $25 91.4%
Alaska Primary Enforcement September 12, 1990 Age 16+ in all seats $15 ($25 actual) 86.8%
Arizona Secondary Enforcement January 1, 1991 Age 5+ in front seats; Age 5–15 in all seats $10 ($37.20 actual) 81.8%
Arkansas Primary Enforcement July 15, 1991 Age 15+ in front seats $25 78.3%
California Primary Enforcement January 1, 1986 Age 6+ in all seats $20 ($88 actual) $50 second offense ($190 actual)[5] 96.2%
Colorado Secondary Enforcement 4 July 1, 1987 All front seats; under 16 all seats $71 82.9%
Connecticut Primary Enforcement January 1, 1986 Age 7+ in front seats $92 88.2%
Delaware Primary Enforcement January 1, 1992 Age 16+ in all seats $25 90.7%
District of Columbia Primary Enforcement December 12, 1985 Age 16+ in all seats $502 92.3%
Florida Primary Enforcement July 1, 1986 6+ years in front seat; 6 through 17 years in all seats $30 87.4%
Georgia Primary Enforcement September 1, 1988 Age 6–17 in all seats; Age 18+ in front seats $15 89.6%
Hawaii Primary Enforcement December 16, 1985 Age 8–17 in all seats; Age 18+ in front seat $45 ($92 actual) 97.6%
Idaho Secondary Enforcement July 1, 1986 Age 7+ in all seats $10 ($51.50 actual) 77.9%
Illinois Primary Enforcement January 1, 1988 Age 16+ in all seats $25 ($60 actual or $95 if choosing traffic school) 92.6%
Indiana Primary Enforcement July 1, 1987 Age 16+ in all seats $25 92.4%
Iowa Primary Enforcement July 1, 1986 Age 11+ in front seats $50 ($127.50 actual) 93.1%
Kansas Primary Enforcement1 July 1, 1986 Age 14–17 in all seats; age 18+ in front seat $30 81.8%
Kentucky Primary Enforcement July 15, 1994 More than 40 in. tall in all seats $25 80.3%
Louisiana Primary Enforcement July 1, 1986 Age 13+ in front seats $25 75.9%
Maine Primary Enforcement December 26, 1995 Age 18+ in all seats $70 1st offense, $160 second up to $310 for a 3rd offense 82.0%
Maryland Primary Enforcement July 1, 1986 Age 16+ in front seats $83 94.7%
Massachusetts Secondary Enforcement February 1, 1994 Age 13+ in all seats [6] $25 73.7%
Michigan Primary Enforcement July 1, 1985 Age 4+ in front seats; Age 4–15 in all seats $25 ($65 actual) 95.2%
Minnesota Primary Enforcement August 1, 1986 Anyone not covered by child passenger safety law in all seats[7][8] $25 + $75 fee 92.3%
Mississippi Primary Enforcement July 1, 1994 Age 4–7 in all seats; Age 8+ in front seat $25 81.0%
Missouri Secondary Enforcement September 28, 1985 Age 16+ in front seats $10 76.0%
Montana Secondary Enforcement October 1, 1987 Age 6+ in all seats $20 78.9%
Nebraska Secondary Enforcement January 1, 1993 Age 18+ in all seats $25 84.1%
Nevada Secondary Enforcement July 1, 1987 Age 6+ in all seats $25 93.2%
New Hampshire Primary for children only No law Age 17 and under in all seats $50 72.2%
New Jersey Primary Enforcement1 March 1, 1985 Driver & all passengers $50 per person 93.7%
New Mexico Primary Enforcement January 1, 1986 Age 18+ in all seats $252 89.8%
New York Primary Enforcement December 1, 1984 Age 16+ in front seats $50 ($135 Actual after surcharges)[9] 89.8%
North Carolina Primary Enforcement1 October 1, 1985 Age 16+ in all seats $25 ($161 Actual after court costs) 89.7%
North Dakota Secondary Enforcement July 14, 1994 Age 18+ in front seats $20 (actual $100.50) 74.8%
Ohio Secondary Enforcement May 6, 1986 Age 15+ in front seat; 4–14 in all seats $30 83.8%
Oklahoma Primary Enforcement February 1, 1987 Age 13+ in front seats $20 85.9%
Oregon Primary Enforcement December 7, 1990 Age 16+ in all seats $90 97.0%
Pennsylvania Secondary Enforcement November 23, 1987 Age 8+ in front seats $10 86.0%
Rhode Island Primary Enforcement June 18, 1991 Age 13+ in all seats $75 78.0%
South Carolina Primary Enforcement July 1, 1989 Age 6+ in all seats $25 85.4%
South Dakota Secondary Enforcement January 1, 1995 Age 18+ in front seats $20 74.5%
Tennessee Primary Enforcement April 21, 1986 Age 16+ in front seats $50 87.1%
Texas Primary Enforcement September 1, 1985 Age 8+ in all seats $200 93.8%
Utah Secondary Enforcement April 28, 1986 Age 16+ in all seats $45 89.0%
Vermont Secondary Enforcement January 1, 1994 Age 16+ in all seats $25 85.2%
Virginia Secondary Enforcement 4 January 1, 1988 Age 18+ in front seats[10] $25 80.5%
Washington Primary Enforcement June 11, 1986 Age 16+ in all seats $124 97.6%
West Virginia Primary Enforcement September 1, 1993 8–17 in all seats $25 82.1%
Wisconsin Primary Enforcement December 1, 1987 Age 8+ in all seats $10 79.2%
Wyoming Secondary Enforcement June 8, 1989 Age 9+ in all seats $25 78.9%

1North Carolina, Kansas, and New Jersey'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 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
4 Virginia and Colorado's Law is Secondary for adults but Primary for under the age of 16.
5 Effective January 1, 2011, New Jersey's law is Secondary enforcement for rear seat occupants.

Secondary enforcement

In 18 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 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 30 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 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.[11]

See also


  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. ^ "Safety belt use laws". Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  3. ^ "Governors highway safety association". Retrieved 2011-07-16. 
  4. ^ "Seat Belt Use in 2010 – Use Rates in the States and Territories" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-05. 
  5. ^ "California traffic fine schedule" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-07-16. 
  6. ^ MGL PartI TitleXIV Chapter90 Section13a See also: the child passenger restraint law
  7. ^ "State Seat Belt Laws". Retrieved 2011-07-16. 
  8. ^ Minnesota Department of Public Safety – Pages – Home. Retrieved on 2012-06-01.
  9. ^ "vehicle and traffic state mandated surcharges $85 for seatbelt". Retrieved 2011-07-16. 
  10. ^ "Virginia Seatbelt Laws". Code of Virginia. Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  11. ^ "Child restraint/belt use laws". Retrieved 2011-07-16. 
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