Public Safety Awareness

Knowing Your State’s Seatbelt Laws

It is a well known truth that seatbelts can save lives in the event of a motor vehicle accident. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 15,000 lives in the US are saved every year by because of their use. Seatbelts work to protect wearers during an accident by keeping them inside the vehicle, restraining the strongest parts of their bodies, spreading out the force of a collision, helping bodies to slow down in abrupt speed changes and protecting the head and spinal cord. All of these actions together play a significant role in reducing the risk of injury or death.

The usage of seatbelts has steadily increased through the years, since 1983, growing from an average of only 14% of motor vehicle drivers and passengers to a triumphant 86% in 2012. This major increase can be attributed to the strict enforcement of newer seatbelt laws as well as campaigns like “click it or ticket”, a seat belt law enforcement movement that has been directly credited with increasing in the seatbelt usage rate. However the laws that are enforced are different from state to state and everyone should know how their state’s seatbelt laws can affect them.

There are two separate categories for state seatbelt laws and they are Primary and Secondary. A primary seatbelt law means that a law enforcement officer can pull a driver over and issue him or her a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt without the need for any other present traffic violation. In the case of the secondary seatbelt law, an officer can only issue a seatbelt ticket in addition to another traffic violation. For example, if you are being issued a speeding ticket you can also then receive a seatbelt ticket on top of that, but not by itself.

It’s obvious that we should all be wearing our seatbelts each and every time we get into a motor vehicle, but, it’s also important to know which type of seatbelt law is enforced in your particular state. Here is a table showing primary and secondary seatbelt laws state to state.


As shown, currently 33 states along with the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have enacted a primary seatbelt law, while the remaining 16 states have implemented the secondary law. To date, New Hampshire is the only state that has not adopted either law, but they do have a child safety law that requires all passengers under the age of 18 to wear a seatbelt.

Clearly these laws have accomplished great things. They have ensured the safety of both drivers and passengers in motor vehicles and have saved lives in countless accidents nation-wide. Remember to buckle up!


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