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Safety Belt Law

Did you know that you can get a civil infraction ticket for the improper use of a safety belt? In other words, if you are one of those people who tucks the shoulder strap of the safety belt, under your arm, or does not force your children to “buckle up”, you may pay the consequences. MCL 257.710e.

Section (3) requires that each operator and front seat passenger of a motor vehicle operated on a street or highway in this state shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt, except that a child less than 4 years of age shall be protected as required in section 710d.

Under subsection (3)(b), a child who is 4 years of age or older but less than 8 years of age and who is less than 4 feet 9 inches in height shall be properly secured in a child restraint system in accordance with the child restraint manufacturer’s and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions and the standards prescribed in 49 CFR 571.213.

Under section (4), if there are more passengers than safety belts available for use, and all safety belts in the motor vehicle are being utilized in compliance with this section, the operator of the motor vehicle is in compliance with this section.

Furthermore, section (5) requires that each operator of a motor vehicle transporting a child 4 years of age or more but less than age 16 in a motor vehicle shall secure the child in a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt and seated as required under the section. If the motor vehicle is transporting more children than there are safety belts available for use, all safety belts available in the motor vehicle are being utilized in compliance with this section, and the operator and all front seat passengers comply with subsection (3), the operator of a motor vehicle transporting a child 8 years of age or more but less than 16 years of age for which there is not an available safety belt is in compliance with this subsection, if that child is seated in other than the front seat of the motor vehicle. However, if that motor vehicle is a pickup truck without an extended cab or jump seats, and all safety belts in the front seat are being used, the driver may transport the child in the front seat without a safety belt.

If certain circumstances are met, the law provides for enforcement only as a secondary action when an operator of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of another section of this act. You can also get a pass if you have a doctor’s note or if your vehicle is manufactured before January 1, 1965, a bus, a motor cycle, a moped, or one does not need to have safety belts under federal law.

Importantly, if you get in an accident, the law also provides for reduction in recovery for damages if you fail to wear a safety belt properly.

This law was amended in 2008 and made changes based upon age. It also changed the language from “driver” to “operator”. (See MCL 257.1 et seq. Words and Phrases Defined.)

Pertinent is the “properly adjusted” language of section (3). Failure to wear a “properly adjusted” safety belt is a civil infraction. So, if you are driving down the street with your safety belt on, but under your arm instead of over your shoulder, you are not off the police radar. Also, if you are stopped by an officer who inquires whether you were wearing your safety belt and you think you can get away with answering that you had it on but he just could not see it because it was under your arm, then you are going to lose the plea.

If you get stopped, your best bet will be to be very respectful because you can’t afford to have your insurance go up. (Yes, even if the ticket is a 0 point ticket, it may take you out of your preferred status with your insurance carrier thereby causing your insurance to increase.)

Discussion:

  1. If there are more people in the car than the number of seat belts and all the seat belts are being occupied, what would the charge fall under for not having someone seat belted?

    • Dear Tony E.:

      According to the law, if there are more passengers than safety belts available for use, and all safety belts in the motor vehicle are being utilized in compliance with the law, then the law is not violated and there would be no ticket.

  2. In Georgia, can you tuck the shoulder strap of your seat belt under your arm?

    • Dear Mark:

      Yes, it seems like you could get away with that as the Georgia seat belt laws do not refer to “properly adjusted” and merely refer to “proper restraint” in relation to children, and furthermore, anticipate the use of shoulder or lap belts. See Georgia Seat Belt Laws.

  3. In Louisiana, is it legal to put the top part behind your back, or is that a no seat belt ticket?

    • Dear Nicole:

      You may get a ticket for putting the top part behind your back. Louisiana seat belt law RS 32:295.1 provides that: “Each driver of a passenger car, van, sports utility vehicle, or truck having a gross weight of ten thousand pounds or less, commonly referred to as a pickup truck, in this state shall have a safety belt properly fastened about his or her body at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion. The provisions of this Section shall not apply to those cars, vans, sports utility vehicles, or pickups manufactured prior to January 1, 1981.

      The law uses the adverb “properly” which means that it must be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, which is more than likely going to be over the shoulder. The law officer must have a clear and unobstructed view to establish probable cause for a violation and may not search or inspect a motor vehicle, its contents, the driver, or a passenger solely because of an alleged seat belt violation. Furthermore, the law provides for a warning ticket first.

  4. In Washington state, a ticket for not wearing your seat belt does NOT get reported to insurance companies so your rates will not up.

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