Am I Legally Required to Wear a Seatbelt in Pennsylvania?
Drivers and passengers are legally required to wear a seatbelt in Pennsylvania. However, failure to wear a seatbelt is considered a secondary offense unless you are under the age of 18. As a result, a police officer cannot pull you over solely for not wearing a seatbelt.
Pennsylvania’s Seatbelt Law
Under Pennsylvania Statutes Title 75 Pa.C.S.A. Vehicles § 4581, all occupants in a motor vehicle must wear a seatbelt. If you are 18 or older, you must be committing a primary offense to be stopped by law enforcement. Then, you can also be ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt. For example, speeding, driving recklessly, running a stop sign, being suspected of driving drunk, etc.
Penalties for Violating Pennsylvania’s Seatbelt Law
The penalty for not wearing a seatbelt is a fine of $10 plus court costs, or $75 for passengers 4 to 8 years old, plus court costs. Children under four years old must be fastened in a restraint system appropriate for their height and weight. Children four to eight years old must sit in a booster seat according to manufacturer recommendations with a seatbelt on. Children eight years and older must always wear a seatbelt in a vehicle.
What Happens if You Get Into an Accident Without a Seatbelt?
Getting into an accident without a seatbelt significantly increases your chances of being seriously injured or killed. Regarding accident liability, even if you were not at fault for causing the collision, the at-fault party’s insurance company may blame the severity of your injuries on you failing to wear a seatbelt. Since Pennsylvania follows the rule of modified comparative fault, often referred to as the “51 percent rule,” your compensation can be reduced based on your level of responsibility.
If you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of your accident, you will automatically be at least partially to blame for your injuries. Therefore, you may not be barred from recovering compensation, but you will receive less. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 but found 30% at fault because you didn’t wear a seatbelt, you will only recover 70% or $70,000. Due to Pennsylvania’s 51 percent rule, if you are found to be 51% or more responsible for your injury, you cannot recover any compensation.
Can It Be Proven That I Was Not Wearing A Seatbelt?
It is possible after an accident for another party to collect evidence that you were not wearing a seatbelt. The responding police officer will likely be able to tell you were not wearing one and will note it in their accident report. Police reports carry a lot of weight in an insurance company’s decision on fault.
The police officer will also speak with drivers, passengers, and any witnesses. If their statements mention your lack of a seatbelt, it will further prove that you were not wearing one. Additionally, there may be surveillance footage of the crash, or your injuries may provide proof that you did not have a seatbelt on.