Many states have enacted seat belt laws that require vehicle occupants to wear safety belts, including Utah. The laws vary by state, so it is a good idea to learn about the seat belt laws specific to your state. Below is a discussion of the Utah seat belt laws and what you need to know if you are going to operate or ride in a vehicle in Utah.
- Drivers and Passengers in Vehicles Must Wear Seat Belts
- Utah Seat Belt Laws are Primary Enforcement Laws
- Drivers Are Responsible for Unrestrained Passengers 16 Years of Age and Younger
- Children Younger Than 8-Years-Old Must Be in a Child Safety Restraint
- Exceptions to Utah Seat Belt Laws
- Failure to Wear Safety Belts and Comparative Fault in Utah
Why You Should Wear a Seat Belt
According to the CDC, over one-half of the drivers and passengers killed in car accidents in 2009 were not wearing safety belts. Additionally, wearing seat belts reduces the risk of a serious injury by 50 percent and reduces the risk of fatalities by 45 percent.
Wearing a safety belt also reduces the risk of being ejected from a vehicle during a collision. Individuals who are not restrained during a crash are thirty times more likely to be ejected from the vehicle compared to individuals who buckle up.
During 2016, almost 15,000 lives were saved in car accidents because drivers and passengers wore seat belts. Sadly, thousands of additional lives could have been saved and pain and suffering could have been reduced had everyone been buckled-in when riding motor vehicles.
This is why one of the most important reasons to wear your seat belt whenever you are in a motor vehicle is to reduce your risk of life-threatening and serious injuries if you are involved in a traffic accident.
Unfortunately, one of the battles that we face as a society is how to encourage older children, teenagers, and young adults to buckle-up. NHTSA research shows that as children get older, they are much less likely to want to wear seat belts. Nearly one-half of the children between the ages of 8 and 12 years who died in 2016 traffic accidents were not wearing safety belts.
Parents and caregivers can help by insisting that children always buckle-up when they are riding in vehicles. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has tips and information for discussing the need to wear seat belts with children and tweens on its website. Insisting that your child and teenager always wear a safety belt when in a vehicle can help develop a habit that will become automatic. Instead of thinking about putting on a seat belt, the motion will become reflexive. Creating this habit also works for adults.
Can a cop pull me over for not wearing a seat belt?
In some states, police officers can pull you over for not wearing a seat belt law. Therefore, another reason for always buckling up when you get into a vehicle is to avoid a traffic ticket. Some states have enacted primary enforcement laws regarding seat belt laws. Below, we discuss Utah seat belt laws in more detail, including the state’s primary enforcement law.
6 Important Things to Know About Utah Seat Belt Laws
Before driving a vehicle in the state of Utah, it’s important to be aware of Utah seat belt laws for drivers and their passengers.
1. Drivers and Passengers in Vehicles Must Wear Seat Belts
The Motor Vehicle Safety Belt Usage Act sets forth Utah seat belt laws and the penalties for failing to abide by these laws. According to the state’s seat belt laws, all drivers and passengers in vehicles—in both front and back seats—must wear a seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened. There are special provisions for children 8 years of age and younger. The goal of seat belt laws is to encourage individuals to wear safety restraints when riding in vehicles to reduce the risk of injury and death in the event of a motor vehicle accident. Ignoring Utah seat belts laws could result in a costly ticket, but it could also result in a tragic death or life-altering injury for you or a loved one.
2. Utah Seat Belt Laws are Primary Enforcement Laws
The seat belt laws vary by state. Some states have secondary seat belt laws. In those states, police officers cannot make a traffic stop for the sole purpose of enforcing the state’s seatbelt laws. However, if the officer pulls over a vehicle for another traffic offense, the officer may also issue a traffic ticket for a seat belt offense if the driver or passengers in the vehicle are violating state seat belt laws.
What is the primary seat belt law and why does it matter?
As of May 12, 2015, Utah seat belt laws became a primary enforcement law. Under primary enforcement laws, law enforcement officers can pull over a vehicle for the sole purpose of issues a seat belt ticket. No longer do police officers need to pull over a vehicle for another violation to issue a seat belt citation. Again, the goal of making seat belt laws tougher is to save lives and reduce injuries by encouraging individuals to always buckle-up whenever they get into a motor vehicle.
How much is a seat belt ticket in Utah?
If a driver or passenger is not properly restrained by a safety belt, the driver can be issued a $45 citation for the offense. Law enforcement officers may issue a warning for a first offense seat belt violation instead of a citation.
3. Drivers Are Responsible for Unrestrained Passengers 16 Years of Age and Younger
According to Utah seat belt laws, drivers are held legally responsible if a passenger in their vehicle who is 16 years of age or younger is not properly restrained by a seat belt or child safety seat. The driver can receive a traffic ticket from law enforcement if a teenager is not buckled in, even if the driver instructed the teenager to fasten his or her seat belt or the teenager unbuckled the safety belt without the driver’s knowledge.
4. Children Younger Than 8-Years-Old Must Be in a Child Safety Restraint
Car seats reduce the chance of an infant or toddler being killed or seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident. Children under the age of eight years must be restrained in a car seat or booster seat designed for their height and weight. The car seat or booster seat used should also be appropriate for the child’s age. A child who is at least 57-inches tall can ride in a vehicle using a safety belt. Booster seat and car seat laws are primary enforcement laws, just like Utah seat belt laws.
5. Exceptions to Utah Seat Belt Laws
There are several exceptions to the safety belt laws in Utah. For example, motor vehicles manufactured before July 1, 1966, need not comply with the seatbelt law. Seatbelt laws do not apply to passengers on school buses or public transit vehicles with a gross vehicle weight that exceeds 10,000 pounds. There are also exceptions if the vehicle or seating position is not required to be equipped with a safety belt system under federal law.
Persons with a medical reason or physical reason for not wearing a safety belt may not be subject to the seat belt law. However, the person must possess a written statement from a licensed doctor or licensed physician assistant stating why the person cannot comply with seat belt laws.
6. Failure to Wear Safety Belts and Comparative Fault in Utah
Insurance companies and defense attorneys often use comparative negligence to argue that the accident victim is partially at fault for the accident. Under Utah’s modified comparative fault laws, if a person is partially responsible for causing a car accident, that person’s compensation for damages can be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the person for causing the crash.
In other words, the person cannot receive full compensation for his or her injuries, damages, and losses if the person contributed to the cause of the collision in any way. If the claimant is determined to be over 50 percent at fault, he or she cannot receive any compensation for injuries and damages.
To reduce the amount of money it must pay for an automobile insurance claim, an insurance company may try to blame the victim for the cause of his or her injuries. Failing to wear a seat belt is often used as an argument in comparative negligence cases. The at-fault party argues that had the victim been wearing a seat belt in compliance with state laws, the victim would not have been injured or the injuries would not be as severe.
However, seat belt laws in Utah specifically state that failing to wear a safety belt or use a child restraint device “does not constitute contributory or comparative negligence.” The defense cannot use failure to wear a seatbelt as evidence at a trial to mitigate damages or raise the issue of negligence regarding the victim’s injuries.
Even though the law does not permit failing to wear a seat belt to be used at a trial in a personal injury lawsuit, it does not stop insurance adjusters from attempting to convince victim’s they cannot receive full compensation if they did not wear a safety belt. For this reason and many other reasons, it is always a good idea to discuss a car accident claim with a personal injury attorney before accepting a settlement.
When Should You Talk to A Utah Personal Injury Attorney About a Car Accident?
It is wise to seek advice from an experienced car accident attorney in Utah as soon as possible after a car accident. As discussed above, failing to wear a seat belt may be used against you during your claim, even though it cannot be used in a trial. Also, victims of car accidents can be injured by seat belts that are defective or cause additional injuries during the crash, such as a whiplash injury and Seat Belt Syndrome. In some cases, a car accident victim could have one or more claims against parties for seat belt injuries in addition to a claim against a negligent driver.
A car accident attorney investigates the cause of the crash, including the cause of your injuries. Through an investigation, an attorney can determine the party or parties who might be liable for the injuries, damages, and losses caused by the accident. By identifying all potential parties to a car accident claim, an attorney increases the chance that a victim can recover full compensation for all damages.
Contact Acadia Law Group now for a free consultation with a personal injury attorney in Utah. Call 1-800-653-4600 now for your free case review.