In 49 states you can be issued a violation for not using a seat belt. (New Hampshire has no mandatory seat belt requirement.) The enforcement of state belt laws may depend on which seats -- front or back -- are not buckled. Check your state laws to determine which rules apply.
In the 49 states with seat belt laws, these laws are categorized in two ways:
- Primary law
- Secondary law
In a state where seat belt laws are primary laws a police officer has the right to pull over a driver for no reason other than the driver or another legally required passenger in the vehicle is not using their safety or seat belt. Thirty-one states plus the District of Columbia have primary seat belt laws. These include: Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virgin Islands, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The remaining 18 states have secondary seat belt laws, which means that you may be given a ticket for not using seat belts but only if you have been pulled over or detained for another violation. In those states, simply not being properly restrained with a seat belt is not a reason to be pulled over. If you have questions about whether seat belt laws in your state are primary or secondary you can contact your local police department or department of motor vehicles and find out. These include: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
In most states, a seat belt ticket is not considered a moving violation - however - child safety restraint laws are closely tied to seat belt laws and even states that may only fine you a small amount for a seat belt ticket can have serious consequences for not properly restraining children in a motor vehicle. Be aware also that some states have special rules for all different ages of minor passengers (infants, 4 and under, 10 and under, 16 and under, 18 and under, or by height or weight. New York State is an example of a state where a seat belt violation can be a non-moving violation or a moving violation:
- Typical penalty is a ticket with a fine of up to $50 (non-moving violation)
- If the person not wearing a seat belt is under 16, the driver gets up to a $100 fine and 3 driver violation points on their license (moving violation)
- 11 points received from violations within 18 months of each other equals a suspended license in New York
In Arizona, the cost of a seat belt ticket is only $10 but in North Carolina that same violation will cost you $132 in fines and court fees after October 1, 2010.
Get Legal Help
If you have received a seat belt ticket, particularly if the offense involved someone under the age of 18 who was in your car you should contact an attorney to discuss your rights under the law, and what options might be available to you to fight the ticket.