California seat belt statute
California seat belt law is described in section 27315 of the
Vehicle Code, also known as the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This statute
describes the circumstances in which people riding in an automobile in
California are legally required to wear a seatbelt. According to the
Motor Vehicle Safety Act, in a private passenger vehicle, the driver
and all passengers are required to be secured by a safety belt. In a
taxicab or a limo, only front seat passengers are required to buckle
up, but there must be seat belts provided for back seat passengers to
use. Unless you’re in a limo or cab, though, California seat belt law
is pretty simple-everyone buckles up, or else.
The statute also has several sections that determine who is responsible
for ensuring compliance with the law. If everyone in the car is 16
years of age or older, the driver is responsible for securing himself
and all passengers. If there are children under the age of 16 in the
car and their parents are not present, the driver is responsible for
making sure the children are properly secured, as well. However, when
parents of minors under age 16 are in the vehicle with their kids, they
are responsible for securing their children no matter who is actually
driving the car.
Section 27360 of the Vehicle Code spells out the requirements for very
young children. Under this statute, children must ride in the back seat
of the vehicle and be in a child safety seat, unless they are age six
or older or weigh 60 pounds or more. Children in this age group may be
in secured in a child safety seat in the front seat of the car only
under the following conditions:
- All the back seats are already occupied by children under the age
- The vehicle doesn't have rear seats, or the rear seats face the
rear or side of the vehicle instead of facing forward.
- The child has a medical condition that requires him or her to ride
in the front.
However, no child can ride in the front seat at all unless they are
over 1 year old or weigh more than 20 pounds. Also, it is illegal to
have a child ride in the front seat if they are in a rear-facing car
seat. This is because airbags can strike the rear of the seat in an
accident and cause skull fractures, brain damage or death.
In California, violating the seat belt law is a primary offense. This
means that if a police officer sees you without a seat belt on, that's
all that's necessary to pull you over and write you a ticket.
Fines for not wearing a seat belt
Fines for not wearing a seat belt in California are set at the state
level, by the California Vehicle Code. The amount of the fine depends
on the age of the person who was riding around without a belt on. For
example, if the unsecured passenger is 16 or older, the fine is $20 for
a first offense and $50 for future offenses. The law specifically gives
the court the option to order the offender to attend defensive driving
school instead of paying a fine on the first offense.
Were you caught with your seat belt off? Driving University offers an
online defensive driving course that is accepted by many California
traffic courts. Unlike a boring classroom course, our course is written
to be interesting and easy to digest. Plus, it's completely online, so
you can take the class from home at your convenience. Click
here to see if we can help you with your California seat belt
If you get caught with an unbuckled child in the car, the fines are a
little bit higher. If the child is under 6 or weighs less than 60
pounds and is not in car seat, the fine is $100.00 for the first
offense. On a first offense, if you didn't have a car seat because you
were not able to afford one, the court has the option of waiving the
fine and referring you to a program to help you get a car seat at a
price you can afford. On future offenses, the fine is still $100, but
the court does not have the option of waving it.
If the unsecured child is over 6 or over 6o pounds and isn't wearing a
seat belt, the fine is $50.00 for the first offense and $100 for future
Remember, California has a penalty system that can double or even
triple the amount you pay in fines. According to the California Uniform
Bail and Penalty Schedules, the total amount for an adult seat belt
offense is only 22.50, even with all of the penalties. However, for a
seat belt offense involving children under 16, you will probably end up
paying about $340 once everything is said and done.
Who is required to wear a seat belt?
In California, almost everyone is required to wear a seat belt. The
only exceptions are people with a medical condition that makes it
unsafe to wear one, and people with occupations that require them to
get in and out of their car all the time, such as newspaper delivery
people, meter readers, mail carriers, and garbage truck drivers. Even
workers in these professions must buckle up on the way to and from
All about child seats
Child seats are essential to keeping your child safe in a vehicle.
Seat belts are designed for grown-ups, and are not adequate protection
for an infant or a small child. In fact, according to statistics
published by Seatcheck.org, if an accident does happen, child safety
seats can reduce the risk of death in infants by 71%. For toddlers,
child safety seats reduce that risk by 54%.
There are many different models of child safety seats available, so
look for one that is good fit for your child and your vehicle. Even
with an owner's manual, it can be difficult to figure out how to
install them correctly-in fact, according to seatcheck.org, 7 out 10
car seats are installed or adjusted improperly. Many parents are
compromising their children's safety without even being aware of
To help combat this problem, the National Highway Safety Traffic
Administration has established Ease of Use ratings for child safety
seats. To see how your child safety seat rates, click here. Also, if
you want to be sure that your child's safety seat is installed
correctly, NHSTA has free inspection stations set up throughout the
country. To look for a California car seat inspection station near you,
Remember, too, that even though it is not currently required by
California law, older children should still use a booster seat. A
booster seat not only makes the seat belt more comfortable, it also
makes the seat belt much more effective at preventing injury if the
child is in a car accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration recommends that children use booster seats until they
are 8 years old or 4' 9" tall.
Types of seat belts
There are 4 types of seat belts that you might encounter in an
automobile: the lap belt, the sash belt, the lap-and- sash, and the
3-point harness. As the name suggests, the lap belt fastens around your
waist and does not have a shoulder strap. Lap belts were more common in
older vehicles, and are usually found only in the back seats of older
cars. In an accident, they do not do as good of a job at distributing
the force of impact as other types of belts. Sash belts are another
older type of belt that is now rare. Sash belts were basically just
shoulder straps, and they are no longer used because they are easy to
slip out of in an accident. The lap-and-sash belts and the three-point
harness style belts are the safest. A lap-and-sash belt is really two
separate belts, a lap belt and a shoulder belt. The three point harness
is similar, except that it is made up of one continuous piece of
material and only has to be buckled once. These types of seat belt help
spread out the force of impact across the strongest parts of your body
if you are in an accident. The three-point harness is the most common
type of seat belt in newer vehicles.
Reasons to use seat belts
Why should you buckle up, anyway? Well, there are a couple of
reasons: Reason # 1 is that it's the law, and if you get caught without
one you'll have to pay a fine. Reason #2 is that wearing a seat belt is
your best source of protection if there is an accident. However,
according to statistics released in 2002 by the Prevention Institute,
the United States seat belt usage rate is only about 75%. Why don't
more people wear them?
Reasons for not wearing a seat belt range from simple carelessness to
the persistence of some common misconceptions about seat belt use. For
example, some people believe that wearing a seat belt can cause them to
be trapped in a vehicle that's on fire or sinking underwater. While
that's definitely a terrifying idea, most crashes don't involve these
hazards. However, not wearing your seatbelt greatly increases your
likelihood of being thrown from the vehicle-and according to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 75% of passengers who
are thrown from a vehicle during a crash die. Those are not good
If you are in a crash and don't have a seat belt on, your chances of
sustaining a serious injury are 4 to 5 times greater than they would
have been if you had your seat belt on. According to the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a seat belt will reduce your
chances of dying in a crash by 45%.
How do seatbelts keep you safe in a crash? Basically, whenever your
vehicle hits something, your body has 3 different types of force to
contend with: the force of the impact between your car and whatever you
just hit, the force of your body smacking against the inside of your
car, and the force of your internal organs hitting your skeleton.
Sounds fun, doesn't it? A seat belt spreads these forces out over the
strongest parts of your body: your chest, your pelvis and your torso,
keeping you from sustaining more serious injuries.
That's why California seat belt law is so strict-seat belts really do
save lives. Fortunately, the law seems to be working. According to the
Prevention Institute, California's seat belt usage rate is 91%, the
best in the nation.
Seat belts and kids
A seat belt by itself is better than no safety restraint at all for
children, but it's still not good enough for younger kids. Seat belts
are designed for the average adult, and kids need more protection.
According to the Humboldt County, California Department of Health and
Human Services, there are four stages to using a seat belt effectively
- From birth until the baby weighs about 35 pounds: a rear-facing
infant seat with a harness-type child safety restraint.
- From approximately 35 pounds to 40 pounds: a forward-facing seat
with a harness-type child safety belt.
- From 40 pounds until the child is approximately 4' 9" and can fit
comfortably into an adult seat belt: a booster seat.
- Once your child is big enough, an adult seat belt.
As you can see, for very small children, the only correct type of
child safety belt is the kind that comes inside a car seat. Car seats
can be expensive, and it's recommended that you buy them new and not
used to make sure they are in good condition. However, it's definitely
a worthwhile investment, since it could save your child's life in an
accident. To help with the cost, California county health departments
offer programs to help low income families obtain low-cost infant car
seats. Contact your local health department for details.