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.
  • 15 states have secondary laws for adult front seat occupants.
  • 28 states, D.C., and 2 territories have laws enforcing rear seat belt use. Of these:
    • 18 states, D.C. and 2 territories include rear seats as primary enforcement. All are states that also have primary seat belt laws for front seat occupants.
    • 10 states include rear seats as secondary enforcement. Four of these are states with primary seat belt laws for front seat occupants. Six are states with secondary laws for adult front seat occupants.
  • 22 states do not have laws enforcing rear seat belt use.
    • Of states with primary front seat belt use laws, 12 states and the Virgin Islands do not include rear seats
    • Of states with secondary front seat belt use laws, 9 states do not include rear seats.
  • New Hampshire has enacted neither a primary nor a secondary seat belt law for adults in any seat, 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.

Kentucky "Buckle Up in Your Truck 225" Race & Campaign

NASCAR’s fan base largely overlaps with those drivers most likely to undertake risky behaviors behind the wheel, and several State Highway Safety Offices have collaborated with drivers and tracks to deliver the safe driving message. The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) is one such state, partnering with the Kentucky Speedway for “Buckle Up in Your Truck 225.”

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

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