Seat belt laws might seem inconvenient, but they exist to keep you and your family safe and secure while traveling the roads. When correctly used, safety restraints save over 90 percent of lives.

Each state has its own set of seat belt safety laws, but all are designed to promote safe vehicle travel for everyone. Here’s a look at the laws surrounding seat belt safety, how they are enforced, and what it means for you. 

Primary vs. Secondary Enforcement

To understand how the laws surrounding seat belts are enforced across the United States, it’s essential to understand the concept of primary vs. secondary enforcement. 

States with primary laws regarding seat belt enforcement allow a police officer to pull over and issue a ticket to a driver primarily for not wearing a seat belt. No other traffic violation needs to have taken place in order for a driver to be pulled over and get a ticket for not being buckled up.

States with secondary laws are different. In these states, a police officer may only ticket a driver for not wearing a seatbelt if they’ve been pulled over for a separate traffic offense. 

For example, if an officer pulled over a driver for speeding or reckless driving, they could then issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. Otherwise, they couldn’t pull over and ticket the driver, even if the officer observed them being unbuckled. 

Driving without a seatbelt is considered a misdemeanor in 49 states, with New Hampshire being the exception. Of those 49 states, 34 have primary seat belt laws for occupants in the front seats. The other 15 states have their laws for seat belts as secondary enforcement.

Rear seat occupants are also legally required to wear a seatbelt. Twenty-five states and Washington D.C. include rear occupants in their primary enforcement laws, and in 11 other states, they are secondary enforcement. 

Federal Seat Belt Laws

Federal laws in the United States require that all vehicles have a three-point restraint system, except buses. That’s about as far as federal requirements go. The individual states determine more specific laws regarding seat belts, even including car seat laws. You can find a comprehensive list of car seat laws by state here

Utah Seat Belt Laws

Utah enforces primary belt laws for all occupants in a vehicle. Additionally, all children age eight and under must be properly restrained in a booster seat or car seat. The fine for a driver or passenger failing to buckle up is $45. This law includes travelers in RVs and taxis. 

Seat Belts Save Lives

The National Highways Traffic Safety Administration found that seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives among vehicle passengers age five and older in 2017. It’s estimated that an additional 2,549 people could have had their lives saved if they’d been wearing their seat belts when a fatal accident occurred. 

While many lives were saved from buckling up, nearly half of all individuals killed in car accidents were riding without a seat belt on. Failing to wear a seat belt can have serious consequences. It could mean the difference between life and death in a crash. 

Wearing your seat belt could keep you from being ejected from the vehicle, and it may also stop the force of an airbag from seriously injuring or even killing you. 

The facts about wearing a seat belt speak for themselves:

  • Wearing your seat belt in the front seat of a passenger car can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 45%
  • Buckling up in a car reduces the risk of moderate to severe injury by 50%
  • Choosing to put on your seat belt in a light truck can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60%
  • Wearing a seat belt in a truck reduces the risk of moderate to critical injury by 65%

There’s no better way to say it. Making the easy choice to put on your seatbelt every time you get in a car can be life-saving. 

How to Properly Buckle Up

The following tips will help you wear your seatbelt correctly to keep you safe in  your vehicle:

  • Ensure the lap and shoulder belts are secured across your pelvis, rib cage, and shoulder. These parts of your body are much better able to withstand the force of a car crash without causing severe damage to your body. 
  • Don’t allow the shoulder belt to run along your neck. Instead, place it across the middle of your chest.
  • Move the lap belt from your stomach to rest on your hips.
  • Avoid moving the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back. It can’t keep you safe if it’s not placed correctly.
  • The fit of the seat belt matters. Before buying a new car or driving a rental, check to ensure the belt fits properly. If it doesn’t fit right, a belt extender or belt adjuster can be helpful. 
  • Pregnancy can make wearing a seat belt more uncomfortable, but buckling up is still essential to your safety and that of your unborn baby. The seat belt should still fit the same way during pregnancy, with the lap belt sitting below your belly and across your hips and the shoulder belt placed across the center of your chest above your stomach. Avoid letting your baby bump touch the steering wheel and leave as much room as possible between your bump and the wheel. 

Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton Is Here For You

No one is immune from accidents, even when you’re following all of the seat belt laws. If you or a loved one are involved in a motor vehicle accident, Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton is here to help. Our personal injury lawyers are ready and available to assist you in the aftermath of an accident. Don’t try to navigate the legal process on your own. The trusted lawyers at our firm will help advocate for you every step of the way. 

We have offices in Orem, Provo, Saratoga Springs, and West Jordan, Utah. Contact us today for a consultation regarding your situation.