Seat Belt Laws Across the States

February 13, 2018

Seatbelt Family

Seatbelt use is a good decision. 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 “I’d be safer if I 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 in excess of five thousand pounds depending on your size.  There isn’t really any good reason not to wear your seatbelt.

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 28 of those states, you can be pulled over just for not wearing one. The remaining 21 states assign secondary liability for being unbelted (that is, if you get pulled over for something else and you’re not wearing your seat belt, you can be in more trouble for that).

Seat belt Laws by State

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.  Below are the laws of five states.  Check your own local statutes – these laws vary widely.

California Seatbelt Laws

California imposes primary liability for not wearing a seatbelt.  All passengers over 16 are required to wear a belt, and the driver is responsible for ensuring that passengers are buckled up.  If you’re a driver in California and your thirty year old buddy isn’t wearing his seat belt, you can get a ticket for that.  First offense will cost you upwards of $80 because of the way California structures its traffic ticket fees; second and subsequent offense can run nearly $200.

Illinois  Seatbelt Laws

Illinois drivers are primarily liable for seat belt violations, but the fine is only $25 (plus court costs).  All passengers over 16 are responsible for their own seat belts.  Unlike other states, the Illinois code states specifically that although it is a primary offense, an officer may not search your car or person without further justification (probable cause) that you have committed a crime.

Maryland Seatbelt Laws

Maryland made a primary offense out of not wearing your seatbelt, unless you’re sitting in the back seat (this is a secondary violation), as long as you’re over 16.  Passengers and the driver will get a ticket for up to $50 for not wearing a seatbelt, and a passenger under 16 who is not wearing a seatbelt will earn the driver an additional ticket for each offense.

Texas Seatbelt Laws

Texas also imposes primary liability for a driver who is not wearing a seat belt, and the ticket will run you an even $200.  Every time.  Passengers under 17 (or 18 if it’s in the bed of a pickup) may cost the driver an additional fine up to $200, and a passenger over 15 without a seatbelt is personally responsible for fines up to $50.

Virginia Seatbelt Laws

Virginia currently considers seat belt non-use a secondary offense.  An officer can pull you over for another moving violation, and can issue an additional citation if you do not have your seatbelt on. Anyone over 18 in the front seat may be ticketed as well, and for every individual under 18 who is unrestrained, the driver will receive an additional ticket.

There is a wealth of evidence available that says that seatbelts 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.

Car Safety Guides

Safety is one of the most important aspects of a car. We’ve written a number of car safety guides to help you stay informed and brush up on some not-so-common driving knowledge. The safer you are, the less you pay.Read through the car safety guides below for tips on how to be the safest you can be in your car and on the road. Even if you’re a good driver, a little extra info can keep you that much safer.

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