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New York Seat Belt law

State law statute

Did you know that New York was the first state to legally require its citizens to buckle up? In 1984, New York passed the first mandatory vehicle occupant restraint law in the entire nation. Today, New York is still serious about getting its citizens to buckle up. New York seat belt law is described in Section 1229 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, which states in part that:


"No person shall operate a motor vehicle unless such person is restrained by a safety belt approved by the commissioner. No person sixteen years of age or over shall be a passenger in the front seat of a motor vehicle unless such person is restrained by a safety belt approved by the commissioner." 


A seat belt is required safety equipment for both drivers and front seat passengers in New York. There are also special sections of the state statute that apply to children under the age of 16. They are always required to wear a safety restraint that is appropriate for their age and weight. People who disobey New York's seat belt law can expect to be stopped and fined, as New York has increased enforcement in recent years. Also, New York drivers should be aware that New York has a primary enforcement seat belt law. "Primary enforcement" means that if a police officer sees you or one of your passengers in a car without a seat belt on, that's the only excuse the officer needs to pull you over and write you a ticket. Also, under New York law the driver is responsible for making sure all passengers under the age of 16 are buckled up when required.

 

Fines for not wearing seat belt

The fine amount for violating New York seat belt law depends on the age of the person not wearing the belt. If the unsecured party is over the age of 16, the fine is $50.00 plus court costs. However, if there was a child under the age of 16 in the car without a belt, the fine can range from $25 to $100, and the violation will add 3 points to your New York driving record. If you do get stopped with a child under the age of 7 and no child seat, you can get your first offense dismissed if you rent or purchase an approved child restraint system before your court date. You only get one "freebie," however. On a second offense, you will be fined and the points will go on your record.

 

Who is required to wear a seat belt?

New York law requires all drivers and front seat passengers to be buckled up, no matter how old they are. In the back seat, children under 16 must be buckled up at all times. Although adults in the backseat should always wear a seat belt for safety reasons, they are not legally required to in New York. Children under the age of 6 must be in an age-appropriate child seat. Merely buckling them up with an adult seat belt is not going to satisfy the requirements of the law.

There are a few exceptions to the seat belt requirements, however. For example, police cars, fire trucks and ambulances are exempt. So are taxi cabs and cars for hire. Vehicles made before 1964 that were not manufactured with seat belts installed are grandfathered from the seat belt requirement. New York is unique in that safety belts are required to be available in school buses, although whether or not children must wear them is up to local school boards. Seat belts are not required in other types of buses. Also, people with a medical condition that makes it unsafe for them to wear a seat belt are exempt with a doctor's note. Mail carriers that have to get in and out of their vehicles constantly are exempt from the seat belt requirement while that are working. However, aside from these limited circumstances, everyone needs to be buckled up...or else!

Child seat info

For small children, an adult seat belt is all wrong. It's the wrong size, and it doesn't provide enough protection to keep little bodies safe in a crash. So, New York law requires that children be secured in safety seat instead. From birth to age 4, children less than 40 pounds must use a child safety seat. If your little monster is under the age of 4 but weighs more than 40 pounds, you don't have to use a child safety seat but you do have to use a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt. Children ages 5, 6, and 7 are required to use a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt unless they are over 4' 9" tall and weigh over 100 pounds.


The most important reason to put your child in a safety seat has nothing to do with law, however. It has to do with their safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, child safety seats can reduce the chances of an infant sustaining a fatal injury in an auto accident by 71%. For toddlers age 1-4, child safety seats can reduce the chances of death from auto accident injuries by 54%. Even for older children, booster seats are important. Seat belts were designed with adults in mind, and an improperly fitting seat belt can cause serious injury or death to a child. Booster seats keep older children safe by raising them to the height that the seat belt was designed for.


It's also very important to make sure that the child safety seat is installed correctly and fits your child. This can be somewhat tricky, especially since installation instructions can vary between different models. To help parents keep their children safe, New York police departments offer free child safety consultations at designated fitting stations. To see locations near you and to make an appointment, click here.  

 

Why should you wear a seat belt?

To stay safe and reduce the chances of serious injury or death in an automobile accident, everyone should buckle up, regardless of how old they are or what part of the car they are sitting in. Accidents happen, and if you are in an accident, you'll be much better off if you are wearing a seat belt. Safety belts help reduce the risk of injury and death in a couple of different ways. First of all, they help keep you inside the car. According to the National Traffic Safety Association, only 1% of people who are buckled up at the time of a crash get ejected from the car. 29% of people without seat belts will be thrown from the car in crash. Some people, having seen one too many TV shows or movies where the hero makes a just-in-the-nick of time escape from a burning or sinking vehicle, think that getting thrown from the car in an accident is a good thing. It isn't. What you usually don't see on the movies is the hero getting thrown into the path of oncoming traffic and flattened, or getting crushed underneath his own vehicle.  Although that doesn't make good TV, it's much more likely to happen than being trapped in burning vehicle by your seat belt. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, 75% of people that get thrown from their vehicle in an accident die. 


Seat belts also help prevent injury by keeping your fragile body from smashing against the windshield, the steering wheel, or other objects during a crash. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, seat belt use reduces the risk of death in an auto accident by 45% for front seat passengers. Seat belts also reduced the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50%. If you are in an auto accident, whether or not you are wearing a seat belt can determine whether you walk away from an accident with just scrapes and bruises, or whether you don't walk away at all.


According to SafeNY.com, inpatient costs for patients who were in a car crash without a seat belt were 15 percent higher than they were for people who were wearing a seat belt. Also, if you are not buckled up and you are in an accident, your body basically becomes a projectile weapon that could seriously injure or kill another passenger. So, even if you don't think your own life is worth it, consider the lives of your passengers. 


Fortunately, the latest data show that New Yorkers seem to be getting the message. In July 2008, DMV Commissioner David Swarts announced that seat belt usage is up to a record of 89% this year! However, that doesn't mean that you can sneak by law enforcement. They have no plans to slow down on their enforcement campaigns.

Types of Seat Belts

When people first started using the automobile as a regular means of transportation, seat belts didn't exist. However, as automakers invented faster cars and more people began driving them, the frequency and severity of automobile accidents increased. The first seat belts were installed in cars in the 30's, by doctors who had treated one too many accident victims. Automakers didn't start making cars with belts until the 50's, and even then, it wasn't a standard feature. Since then, the seat belt has evolved, going through 4 major phases: the lap belt, the shoulder belt, the lap-and-sash, and the three-point harness.

Lap belts are simply belts that go around passenger's waists. They do a poor job of distributing the impact force in a crash, and are only found in older vehicles. Shoulder-only belts, called sash belts, are also not used anymore due to safety issues. In a crash, it's entirely too easy to slip out from under a sash belt. Lap-and-sash belts are a combination of the lap belt and the shoulder belt, with each belt having its own separate buckle. Buckling two belts is inconvenient, and often people would only bother to fasten on or other, reducing the effectiveness of the system. The most revolutionary leap in seat belt design occurred in 1951, when Americans Roger Griswold and Hugh DeHaven patented the first three-point harness seat belt. This is the same type of seat belt used today: a combination lap-and-shoulder belt that uses a continuous strip of material for both the lap belt and the sash belt, and only needs to be buckled once. However, their invention was not used until Volvo decided to make it standard safety equipment in their vehicles in 1959. Even then, three-point harnesses were not required safety equipment in all vehicles until 1973.

How to use seat belts with children

When it comes to using safety restraints with children, there are several important things to keep in mind. First, all children should be in either a safety seat or a booster seat until they are big enough to wear an adult seat belt. How do you know when its time? Your child can safely go without a booster seat whenever they are big enough that an adult seat belt fits correctly, with the lap belt lying across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fitting comfortably across the chest. Usually, kids are not ready for adult seat belts until they are at least 4' 9" tall. Also, remember that children under age 12 are safest in the back seat, especially in a car with air bags. Infants in rear-facing seats should never ride in front with an airbag. Airbags deploy so forcefully that if they smack against the back of a rear-facing car seat they can easily fracture a baby's skull! Also, make sure to stress to your kids how important it is to buckle up. Out of all the different age groups, teenagers are least likely to buckle up. For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did a study in 2002 that showed only a little over half of teenagers use their safety belts, even when there are other adults in the car who are wearing them. To help improve the rate of seat belt use among teens, it’s important for parents to set a good example and encourage seat belt use in younger children.

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