It is no question that seat belts save lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47% were not wearing seat belts. Additionally, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017 and could have saved an additional 2,549 people if they had been wearing seat belts.
Like many laws, they vary depending on what state you reside. In all states, except New Hampshire, it is a misdemeanor to not wear your seat belt. In 34 states, you can be pulled over just for not wearing it, known as a primary enforcement. The other 15 states consider driving without a seat belt a secondary enforcement. This means that if you get pulled over for something else, such as speeding, and you’re not wearing a seat belt, you can get in more trouble. These primary and secondary laws are in reference in front seat passengers.
Backseat seat belt enforcement also varies by state and usually depends on the age of the passenger. In 19 states, including the District of Columbia, rear passengers are subject to primary enforcement. 10 states include rear seats as secondary enforcement. That currently leaves 21 states without any laws enforcing rear seat belt use.
New York’s seat belt law holds primary enforcement. This is for all riders 16 years or older in all seats. Children under the age of 16 must wear the proper restraint protection based on their age, weight, and height. A ticket for your first offense holds a maximum penalty of $50.
If you are involved in an auto accident and not wearing your seatbelt, it can greatly reduce the amount of financial compensation that you can receive, even if you are not at fault. You will most likely be found partially responsible for your injuries. Seat belts should be worn first and foremost to protect yourself physically, but also financially if you find yourself in a personal injury lawsuit due to an auto accident.