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New York state seatbelt laws explained

July 2, 2010
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Seatbelts hold all occupants in place, where air bags and other supplemental-restraint-system components can be most effective. They also keep a driver in place behind the steering wheel to be able to use the vehicle's controls, and keep occupants from being ejected during a collision.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicate that chances of surviving an impact are greater if a vehicle occupant remains in the vehicle. How important is it not to be ejected in a collision? Check this out:

In view of the above statistics, it's no wonder police agencies in new York state continue heavy enforcement of seatbelt laws. Section 1229-c of the state Vehicle and Traffic Law covers operation of a vehicle with safety seats and safety belts. Laws vary for front seat versus rear seat passengers and for children under 16 years of age.

Everyone in the front seat of a vehicle must be restrained by seat belts and shoulder harnesses at all times. Front seat passengers are subject to fines if 16 years old and over; otherwise the driver is responsible. Also, everyone must be restrained properly by the safety equipment. Placing your shoulder harness behind your arm or torso is a violation.

In rear seats, everyone under the age of 16 must be restrained by a proper restraint system - more on this later. Although state law does not require rear seat occupants 16 and over to be restrained, this law is archaic and every passenger should utilize their seat and shoulder restraints for safety reasons, if not for legal reasons. However, if the vehicle is driven by a person holding a class DJ learner's permit, a class DJ license or a limited class DJ license, it is mandatory that all passengers, including rear seated persons 16 and older, be restrained with belts and shoulder harnesses.

Children under the age of eight are required to be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system that meets the child's size and weight and the specifications of the manufacturer. A child restraint system may be a child safety seat, harness, vest or a booster seat. Booster seats must be used with a lap and a shoulder belt.

Children under the age of four must ride in a federally-approved child safety seat, preferably in the back seat. In fact, all children under the age of 12 should ride in the rear seat. From the age of four until age eight, they must be in a booster seat and secured with a seatbelt and shoulder harness. However, it is recommended that booster seats be used until your child is four feet nine inches tall or weighs 100 pounds.

As you can see, state seatbelt laws are rather complex. If you have any questions, inquire from your local police agency - don't assume.

This and all previous Did You Know articles can be found on the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board's website at

Dave Werner can be reached at



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