Not that many years ago there were no seatbelt or child restraint laws. An officer may pull a car over if children were jumping from seat to seat or doing something that looked dangerous, but it wasn’t uncommon to see children in a car, up and moving around, not seat belted at all. It was even common, years ago before child car sears were the norm, to find people driving with a baby lying on the seat next to them. The use of seat belts for adults and children, and child safety restrains like booster seats and infant car seats, drops the likelihood that you or a child will be seriously injured in an accident. If that’s not reason enough to use these safety devices, then the penalties for not using them are added incentive.
Seat Belt Laws
Only one state, New Hampshire, does not have seat belt laws in effect. Elsewhere during any traffic stop the officer will ensure that adults use safety belts, and will give seat belt ticket to those who do not. In some states, roughly half, the traffic stop can be made solely because the officer suspects adults of not wearing seat belts.
If you’re pulled over while you’re not wearing a seat belt, the penalties vary by state. In some states you only pay a seat belt ticket fine, because the ticket isn’t considered to be a moving violation. It’s more like a parking ticket than a speeding ticket. In other states, it is considered a moving violation to operate a motor vehicle without wearing a seatbelt, and the ticket can add points to your license and possibly affect your ability to drive and your insurance rate, especially if it’s not your first traffic ticket.
The fine for driving without a seatbelt can range from $10 to $200, depending on the state and whether or not they consider the ticket a moving violation. In states where it is considered a moving violation, the fine is usually much higher than in states where it’s not.
There are a number of laws governing how children may ride in motor vehicles, all designed to protect their safety. Infants and small children must be safely restrained in a child car seat that’s secured with seatbelts to the seat of the vehicle, and they must be in the back seat to prevent a deployed air bag from slamming into the back of the seat and possibly injuring the child.
Older children must ride in a 'booster seat.' Seatbelts are designed for adults, so children under a certain age can’t use them properly. This makes using a standard seatbelt with a small child unsafe. They must use these safety seats, sometimes called ‘booster’ seats, until they reach a certain age, or more commonly, a certain size. Children under a certain size aren’t supposed to ride in the front seat in vehicles with a passenger-side airbag for the child’s protection.
After the child weighs enough that a safety seat isn’t required, the child must use the seat belt just like an adult.
Have you or someone you know been cited for a traffic violation? If so, contact one of our experienced traffic violation lawyers in your area today!
State Child Restraint and Seat Belt Laws
Here is a table provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), that lists the state laws for seat belts and child restraints for motor vehicles.
1 May include rear-facing child restraint seats, forward-facing child restraint seats, and booster seats.
2 Many States exempt persons who for medical reasons cannot use a seat belt and vehicles not originally required to be equipped with seat belts.
3 The word “all” used in this category means that everyone in the vehicle must be restrained. For children, that may be in a child restraint.
4 Exemptions for emergency vehicles and buses generally do not apply to the driver.
5 Child restraint law: rear-facing seat until 1 year or 20 lbs; forward-facing child restraint until 5 years or 40 lbs; booster seat until 6 years.
6 First violation, 1 point; second or subsequent violation, 2 points.
7 Children >3 years old but <16 years old must be restrained in a device appropriate for children of that age, as determined by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
8 Two points for child restraint violation.
9 Law enforcement may stop a vehicle for an apparent violation of the child restraint law as to children under age 5.
10 If motorist is wearing belt when stopped for another violation, the fine for that violation is reduced by $10.
11 Children 6 years or >60 lbs may be in a seat belt.
12 Court may substitute traffic safety school for fine with regard to first offense. Fine for second and subsequent offenses is $50.
13 <1 year or <20 lbs or in rear-facing restraint may not ride in front if front passenger air bag is activated; <60 lbs in rear seat if available.
14 One point for child restraint violation; operators liable for children <16 years not wearing seat belt or proper child safety restraint.
15 Primary enforcement for child safety restraints.
16 Fine for first offense by minor driver is $65.
17 <1 year and <20 lbs in rear-facing restraint system; ages 1-3 and 20-39 lbs in forward-facing child safety seat; ages 4-5 and <55 inches tall in booster seat.
18 If driver under age 18 commits a violation, he/she is subject to a $75 fine.
19 Booster seats may only be used in a seating position with a lap and shoulder belt. Younger than 1 year or <20 lbs in rear-facing restraint system; 4 years and older or under 4 years and <40 lbs in student “transportation” (not a school bus) in child seat or belt. First or second violation: violator required to attend a child car seat safety course offered or approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
20 Plus 2 points on license record.
21 Alternatively, the driver may opt to take a child restraint safety class for $25. In either case, 2 points on driver’s record.
22 Primary enforcement for violations of child safety restraint law.
23 Children age 3 or younger must be restrained in child safety seat; children ages 4-5 may be restrained in safety seat or by seat belt.
24 Three points assessed against the driver’s record.
25 If minor violates seat belt law, the driver may be fined $25.
26 For children 40 lbs or more, child restraint requirement satisfied if restrained in the rear seat by a seat belt (may be lap belt if 3-point belts are unavailable or already being used by other children >40 lbs; if no rear seat belt complies, child may be properly restrained in front seat in compliance with the requirements). Age 5 and younger must be in rear seat if available.
27 First violation, 1 point; second or subsequent violation, 2 points.
28 In addition to the $45 fine, the driver must pay a surcharge of $10 for the neurotrauma special fund.
29 Children ages 4-7 exempted if >57 inches tall or >40 pounds and traveling in a motor vehicle equipped only with lap belts, without shoulder straps, in the back seat.
30 First-time violator also required to attend class on child passenger restraint system (not to exceed 4 hours in length), pay $50 driver education safety assessment fee, and pay $10 surcharge into neurotrauma fund.
31 Punishable by a fine not exceeding $100; typically, total fine is $60, including all add-on costs.
32 Everyone younger than 19 must be restrained if driver is <18. Children >40 lbs may use lap belt in rear seat if no 3-point belt is available.
33 Child >40 lbs may be restrained by lap seat belt if: (1) the motor vehicle is not equipped with lap and shoulder seat belts; or (2) not including the operator’s seat and front passenger seat, all lap and shoulder seat belts are being used to properly restrain other children <16 years. Child <8 years may be exempt if the child cannot reasonably fit within a child safety restraint. Child restraint law applies only to drivers with Indiana license.
34 Four points also assessed on driving record.
35 <1 year and <20 lbs in rear-facing child seat; 3 years or older but <6 years old may be secured in child restraint, seat belt, or seat harness.
36 First offenders who prove purchase or acquisition of child restraint system shall not be convicted.
37 For driver or passenger >17 years old; $60 for children ages 14-17.
38 If number of children subject to these requirements exceeds number of passenger-securing locations available for use by children and all passenger-securing locations are in use by children, the requirement is waived for the additional children.
39 $10 plus court costs waived if offender purchases or obtains an appropriate child restraint.
40 Seat belt roadblocks prohibited. Belt violations not on driving record.
41 For violation related to booster seat requirement for children >7 years old, law enforcement currently issues warning for first violation; after July 1, 2009, first violation will result in $30 fine.
42 <1 year or <20 lbs in rear-facing child seat; ages 1-3 or 20-39 lbs in forward-facing child seat; ages 4-5 or 40-60 lbs in booster seat.
43 Operator may be fined additional $25 if allowing anyone <16 and >12 years old to ride unrestrained.
44 Everyone in school bus equipped with seat belts must use them.
45 Driver does not have to comply with this requirement if the number of children to be secured exceeds the number of seat belts available. Unsecured children must be seated in other than the front seat, and all front seat passengers must be secured. In the case of pickup trucks where all seat belts are being used and where such vehicles do not have an extended cab or jump seats, unsecured children may be transported in the front seat without a seat belt.
46 Seat belt requirement does not apply to persons riding in vehicle where all available seat belt positions are occupied.
47 Driver may be fined only for violation by the driver, a front seat passenger, or a child <7 years old required to wear a seat belt.
48 Primary for children <16 years old.
49 Plus court costs; but charges dismissed or withdrawn if driver prior to hearing provides evidence of acquisition of an appropriate child seat.
50 Persons <18 years old operating or riding in a truck are required to wear a seat belt.
51 Plus court costs.
52 Only secondary enforcement unless the violation involves a person <18 years old riding in or on any portion of the vehicle not designed or intended for the use of passengers or for children age 5 or younger.
53 Conceivably, the fine could be as high as $500, but $50 is typical.
54 For driver and front seat passengers only; secondary for rear seat occupants.
55 Front seat passengers and drivers must also pay $50 in court fees; fine for rear seat passenger is $10 and no court costs; secondary enforcement of violations occurring in the rear seat.
56 In vehicles with front side passenger air bags, child <5 years and <40 lb shall be properly secured in the rear seat unless the child restraint system is designed for use with air bags. If no lap and shoulder belt, children 40-80 lbs may be in lap belts.
57 Two points for conviction, but entire penalty is waived upon proof of acquisition of child restraint device.
58 Primary enforcement for all positions if occupant is <18 years.
59 Age 6 or younger and 40 lbs or more may be restrained in lap belt if no lap/shoulder belts available; requirement to use either child restraint system or seat belt does not apply to a child being transported in an emergency situation.
60 Two points assessed.
61 Must be seated in rear seat if seats available.
62 Fine suspended on proof of possession of a child restraint system.
63 <1 year in rear-facing infant seat, seated in the rear seat if available; ages 1-4 or <40 lbs in child safety seat; ages 5-6 or <60 lbs in booster seat; ages 7-12 in adult seat belt.
64 Plus 3 points on license record if violation involves child <16 years old. Front seat passengers 16 years or older can be fined up to $50 and drivers can be fined up to $100 for each passenger <16 years not wearing seat belt.
65 Plus 3 points for any violation involving use of seat belts or seats by a child <16 years old.
66 School buses sold in the State must be equipped with seat belts. Boards of Education, via regulations, may provide that on school buses under their jurisdiction, seat belts shall be used when buses are in operation; passengers <4 years in school buses must be restrained in child safety restraints.
67 Fines are $20 for passenger violating law, $30 for driver.
68 Law is secondary for children ages 4-14.
69 Children >40 lbs may be belted in rear seat by a lap belt if vehicle not equipped with lap and shoulder belts or when lap and shoulder belts are being used by other children.
70 Plus court costs.
71 <1 year or <20 lbs in rear-facing child safety seat; children <40 lbs in child safety seat; >40 lbs but 57 inches tall or less in safety system that elevates the child so that an adult seat belt fits properly.
72 Pennsylvania’s fine is $10, but with court, EMS, judicial, and computer costs the ticket total is $51.50.
73 Secondary enforcement for children ages 4-7 who must be in booster seats.
74 Primary enforcement for drivers and occupants <18 years old.
75 Children <7 years old but >54 inches or >80 lbs in adult seat belt in rear seat if available. Children <6 years old must be in rear seat if seat available.
76 Seat belt law may not be enforced by checkpoints designed for that purpose. Seat belt law does not apply to an occupant if all belts in the vehicle are used by other occupants.
77 <1 year or <20 lbs in rear-facing infant seat; age 5 or younger and >40 lbs but <80 lbs in booster seat; ages 1-5 and >80 lbs in seat belt. Child <6 years old must be in child safety seat unless the knees bend over the seat edge when sitting up straight against the seat back, in which case use of seat belt is permitted. (Note: Up to $150 fine, but may be waived with acquisition of child restraint.)
78 Primary enforcement for all seating positions with occupant <18 years old.
79 Drivers ages 16-17 must wear seat belts, but driver cannot be fined for failure of passenger >16 years old to wear seat belt.
80 Seat belt requirement does not apply to passenger occupying a position without a seat belt.
81 Primary enforcement for all seating positions if driver or passenger is 18 years or younger.
82 Reduced to $15 upon completion of class; standard enforcement for children 18 years or younger.
83 <1 year or <20 lbs in rear-facing child seat; ages 2-7 in child passenger restraining system, <16 years old in seat belts.
84 Children age 4 or older may be belted if their weight, size, or physical fitness makes use of a child restraint device impractical. (Certifying doctor’s information must be kept in vehicle.)
85 Drivers transporting children <13 years old shall transport them in the back seat of the vehicle whenever practical to do so.
86 If all seat belts in vehicle are being used at the time of examination by law officer and vehicle contains more passengers than the total number of seat belts or other safety devices as installed in compliance with Federal motor vehicle safety standards, the driver may not be considered in violation.
87 Children <1 year or <20 lbs in rear-facing child seats in back seat; ages 1-3, weighing 20 lbs or more but <40 lbs in forward-facing child seats in back seat if possible; ages 4-7, 80 lbs or less and 57 inches tall or less in booster seats.
88 Assessment is $10-$25 for children ages 4-7; first assessment waived upon proof of acquisition and installation of child restraint.
89 Rear seat occupants must wear seat belt at any position where a shoulder harness is installed.
90 If motorist is wearing belt when stopped for another violation, the fine for that violation is reduced by $10.
91 Passengers violating seat belt requirements are subject to a fine of $10.
92 Children exempted from booster seat requirement if lap and shoulder belts fit properly across collarbone, chest, and hips of the child and do not pose danger to child’s neck, face, or abdominal area in the event of a crash or sudden stop.