Seat Belt Laws in the U.S.

April 17, 2018

seat belt laws usa

View Your State’s Seat Belt Laws

Seat belt laws are created to protect the lives of both the driver and their passengers. There is very little information out there to suggest that you shouldn’t wear a seatbelt whenever you’re in a moving vehicle.  The idea that you would be safer if you were thrown from the car in an accident is a myth that has been debunked by a vast amount of experimental and anecdotal evidence.

Cars are getting bigger, collisions more violent, and the force your body generates in an accident can be up to five thousand pounds depending on your size.  There isn’t really any good reason not to wear your seatbelt.

Primary Enforcement Vs Secondary Enforcement

If you need a better reason to buckle up, consider this: in 49 states (all except New Hampshire), it is a misdemeanor to not buckle your seat belt. In 34 of those states, including Washington D.C., you can be pulled over just for not wearing one. This is referred to as primary enforcement.

The remaining 15 states assign secondary enforcement for being unbelted (that is, if you get pulled over for something else and you’re not wearing your safety belt, you can be in more trouble for that). New Hampshire does not currently have a seat belt law in place. Backseat seat belt enforcement also varies as a primary and secondary offense from state to state. Find out more about your state’s safety belt laws below.

Federal Seat Belt Laws in the USA

Under federal law, all vehicles except buses must have a three-point restraint system.  This means a lap belt and shoulder belt must be available – and worn – by all front-seat passengers.  Beyond that, seatbelt laws vary significantly by state, and whether you must wear a seatbelt may depend on your age or where you’re sitting in the car.  Check your own local polices – these laws vary widely.

Seat Belt Laws by State

Find your state below to see what safety belt laws are currently in place and what the penalties may be if you are caught not wearing one.

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

District of Columbia

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss data Institute (2018, April).Seat Belts.http://www.iihs.org/

There is a wealth of evidence available that show seat belts save lives. Depending on where you are, how old you are, and who else is in your car, nonuse can also be incredibly expensive. Encourage your passengers to buckle up, and make sure you buckle up yourself.

A ticket for not wearing your seatbelt may also affect your insurance rates, so be sure to check available rates.

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