Seat belt laws in 50 states

Seat belt laws in 50 states

Traffic Safety Trends: State Legislative Action 2015
© 2016 National Conference of State Legislatures

By Anne Teigen, Douglas Shinkle and Amanda Essex

Sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2015; Governor’s Highway Safety Association, 2015.

Editor: The following is an excerpt from the above publication.

Occupant Protection

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among those ages 1-54 in the United States. Of the 32,675 people killed on America’s roads in 2014, 49 percent were not wearing a seat belt. Research indicates that lap/shoulder seat belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent.

NHTSA estimates that seat belts saved approximately 12,802 lives in 2014 and have prevented hundreds of thousands of injuries. Seat belt laws and enforcement can encourage drivers and passengers to buckle up. Every state except New Hampshire has an adult safety belt law.

Seat belts laws can be primary or secondary. Primary laws allow police officers to stop motorists solely for violating the seat belt law. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have primary enforcement seat belt laws. Sixteen states have secondary seat belt laws that require police to stop the vehicle for other reasons before they can cite the driver for failure to use a seat belt. According to NHTSA, states with primary laws averaged 11 percent higher seat belt use than secondary law states in 2013. Laws in 28 states and the District of Columbia require occupants in both the front and rear seats to be belted.

According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, seat belt use by adults in the back of passenger vehicles is about 10 percentage points lower than by those in the front. (Appendix B contains information about safety belt use laws….)

Editor: The following section indicates the safety belt laws for 2015 and is copied from the above publication. These laws apply to “passenger vehicles” and do not specify RVs separately. This chart does not cover child restraint in passenger vehicles, which is totally different topic. There is a link to an article below the chart which is more specific to RVs, as well as a link to another chart covering seat belt laws. (We apologize that this chart is fuzzy.)

Safety belt laws pg. 1

Safety belt laws pg. 2

Here is a link to an article entitled “Things you need to know about RV seat belt laws,” posted on RVshare.com by Leah.

This link from RVHelpDesk.com contains a chart regarding seat belt laws by state. But since the fines appear to be out of date, we aren’t sure about the accuracy of the rest of the information.

Of course, it would be safest to have everyone buckled up when the RV is moving. If your passenger wants to move about the RV while it’s rolling down the highway, we suggest you look up the laws of the state you’re traveling in if you want to be seat-belt compliant.

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2 thoughts on “Seat belt laws in 50 states

  1. Nancy K.

    The information about seat belt laws in NH is incorrect. See NH DMV site http://www.dmv.org/nh-new-hampshire/safety-laws.php

    1. RV Staff

      Thanks for writing, Nancy. The link you added is actually from a “… privately owned website that is not owned or operated by any state government agency” (the description from the top of that website). However, from the Governors’ Highway Safety Association as of June 2016, in a list of key highway safety laws for New Hampshire, they report: “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.”

      Seat belt laws seem to be very confusing from state to state and even for different ages. Maybe it’s best to just “buckle up for safety” no matter where or who, and no matter what the law says.
      Diane at RVtravel.com

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