State Seat Belt Laws

State Seat Belt Laws


Primary belt laws allow police to stop and ticket a motorist if the driver and passengers are not buckled up. Nonconforming primary laws allow exceptions for some vehicles, such as pick-up trucks. Secondary belt laws allow police to issue a citation only if the driver is first stopped for another infraction.

Riders in the backseat do not have to wear seat belts after a certain age. Passengers can ride in the back seat without wearing seatbelts ranging from age 7 to 18, depending on state law.

Sources:The National Conference of State Legislatures; Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2010.

United States Map of Seat Belt Laws

Seat Belt Laws by the Numbers

  • Motor vehicle crashes killed 25,351 occupants of passenger vehicles (passenger cars, pickup trucks, vans) in 2008. Of the crashes where restraint use was known, 55 percent of the vehicle occupants were unrestrained.  
  • Seat belt use in back seats was 74 percent in 2008, nearly a 10 percent difference from the 83 percent use rate in front seats, cccording to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.   
  • Seat belt use in back seats was higher in states with laws requiring belt use in all seating positions, according to a 2007 NHTSA study, 
  • At least seven states have considered requiring seat belt use in all seating positions in the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions. Minnesota enacted the requirement in 2009, and New Jersey passed a similar measure in 2010. 
  • As of March 2010, 24 states and the District of Columbia require seatbelt use in all seating positions, including the back seats. Twenty-six states have laws that allow back seat passengers to travel without a seat belt. 

Source: The National Conference of State Legislatures, 2010.

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