There was a time when a family trip to the beach meant five kids piled in the back, some sitting on each other’s laps. Today, that same trip would require a bigger car. The laws regarding seat belts in New York have tightened (no pun intended) over the decades.

As of 2022, every occupant, regardless of age, is required to wear a seat belt when in a moving vehicle. There are no exceptions for sitting in the backseat.

When Did This Become the Law?

Previously the law did not require all backseat passengers to wear a seat belt. However, the law changed in 2020, and enforcement started on November 1st. Police officers can pull over drivers if they observe any passenger not wearing a seat belt and can give fines or summons accordingly.

Are There Exceptions to the Law?

Only two types of vehicles are exempt from the law: buses and emergency vehicles. Despite being exempt, many buses and emergency vehicles are equipped with seat belts, and passengers are encouraged to wear them whenever possible.

Why Was the Law Changed?

New York is not the first state in the U.S. to require all passengers, regardless of age, to wear seat belts. It is the 30th state to implement this law.

Seat belts, when worn properly, are proven to decrease severe injuries and deaths in all types of car accidents. However, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study from 2018 discovered that passengers are significantly less likely to wear seat belts when not required to by law.

This law was passed to decrease preventable fatalities from traffic accidents in New York.

Child Restraint Laws

Technically, there is one other circumstance where seat belts aren’t required. Young children are covered by child restraint laws rather than seat belt laws. 

Child restraint laws cover:

  • Rear-facing child seats
  • Front-facing child seats with child restraints
  • Graduating to seat belt usage

Rear-facing child seats are required for children under two years old unless they outgrow the height or weight recommendations of the seat. Children up to seven years old and up to 40 pounds are required to use a front-facing seat with child restraints, in combination with a standard seat belt. 

After that, children graduate to traditional seat belts, though you are still encouraged to use child booster seats, depending on the weight and height of your child.

Why Is it So Important to Wear a Seat Belt?

According to the CDC, over 50% of the teens and adults under 45 who died in a car crash were not wearing their seat belts at the time. Since roughly 70% of people wear seat belts while in a moving vehicle, this means that people not wearing a seat belt are more than twice as likely to die as those who do wear them.

What About the Rumors that Seat Belts Are Unsafe?

You may have heard claims that seat belts are unsafe; however, those rumors are mostly just misunderstood facts. As a general rule, seat belts prevent more harm than they cause. 

That doesn’t mean that they can’t cause harm. When worn incorrectly, a seat belt can strike vulnerable portions of your body in an accident, like your throat or stomach. This is why you should wear the seat belt properly and use a booster seat if your height or weight requires it.

In most serious accidents, your seat belt will cause bruising or even cracked ribs. However, if the accident was severe enough for that to happen, without the seat belt you would likely have been thrown from the car, which would have been much more damaging.

In short, seat belts are safe and should always be worn properly.

Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in New York City

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Manhattan, NY, and need legal help, contact our New York City car accident lawyers at Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. to schedule a free consultation.

Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C.
100 Wall St 15th Floor
New York, NY 10005
(212) 514-5007