Seat Belts

Seat belt laws are divided into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary seat belt laws allow law enforcement officers to ticket a driver or passenger for not wearing a seat belt, without any other traffic offense taking place. Secondary seat belt laws state that law enforcement officers may issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt only when there is another citable traffic infraction.

  • 34 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have primary seat belt laws for front seat occupants. Of these:
    • 18 states, D.C. and 2 territories include rear seats as primary enforcement.
    • 4 states include rear seats as secondary enforcement.
    • 12 states and the Virgin Islands do not include rear seats.
  • 15 states have secondary laws for adult front seat occupants. Of these:
    • 6 states also have secondary laws for rear seats.
    • 9 states do not include rear seats.
  • New Hampshire has enacted neither a primary nor a secondary seat belt law for adults, although the state does have a primary child passenger safety law that covers all drivers and passengers under 18.

belts
Law Chart

Specific laws vary greatly from state to state, depending on the age of the rider and in what seat he or she is sitting. This page covers seat belt laws for adults and young adults only. For requirements for infants, toddlers, and children, see GHSA's Child Passenger Safety Laws chart.

A PDF chart of state seat belt laws is available for download here.

NOTE: GHSA does not compile any additional data on adult seat belt laws other than what is presented here. For more information, consult the appropriate State Highway Safety Office.

Sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and State Highway Safety Offices.

Short Term Description
Seat belt laws are divided into two categories: primary and secondary. Specific laws vary greatly from state to state, depending on the age of the rider and in which seat he or she is sitting.

Unbuckled in the back seat? You'll become a human missile in a crash

A new IIHS study highlights the dangers of being unbuckled in the backseat – echoing GHSA's 2015 spotlight on the issue. With many reporting not buckling up in for-hire vehicles, GHSA's Jonathan Adkins discusses the importance of wearing a seat belt no matter the vehicle.

Unbuckled in the back seat? You'll become a human missile in a crash

August 3, 2017
Article by Sophia Tulp

Seat Belts

Seat belts are the oldest form of occupant protection, with Volvo patenting the first rudimentary seat belt in 1889. However, it wasn't until 1968 that the federal government required seat belts to be installed in all new passenger cars.

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