||Seat Belts & Air Bags
Law Enforcement Partners' Page
In 1984, New York State became the first state to enact a mandatory seat belt law, the law became effective in 1985. New York's seat belt law is a "primary enforcement law". This means that a police officer may stop you for not having a seat belt on.
Air bags have been proven to save lives and prevent serious injuries and should be used in combination with seat belts.
See the Seat Belt Safety PSA from the Onondaga County Traffic Safety Advisory Board.
Programs & Solutions
New York State's Seat Belt Enforcement Initiative
Increasing seat belt and child safety seat use is the most effective way to reduce crash-related injuries and fatalities. Buckle Up New York, Click It... Or Ticket, is a statewide, zero-tolerance enforcement effort coordinated by the State Police, local agencies, sheriff's offices and the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee to increase safety restraint use in New York State.
Read more about the Buckle Up New York Campaign at the NYS Troopers website, New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc., or New York State Sheriff's Association.
What is the law regarding seat belt use?
Seat belts must be worn, as follows:
- All passengers in the front seat of a motor vehicle must wear a seat belt [Section 1229-c (2) and (3), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law].
- All children under the age of sixteen (16) must wear a seat belt in the back seat [Section 1229-c(1), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law]. Children from birth through age eight are required to ride in an appropriate child restraint system.
- All children under the age of 16 are required to be buckled up when traveling in recreation vehicles, mobile homes and campers if they are equipped with seat belts.
Are any motor vehicles exempt from the seat belt law?
Yes, the following types of vehicles are exempt from the seat belt law:
- Police/Fire and Ambulances
- Buses other than school buses
[See Section 1229-c(9), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law.]
Can I be stopped by a police officer because I am not wearing a seat belt, even if I am obeying all other rules of the road?
Yes. New York State's seat belt law is a "primary" law, which means that a police officer can stop you simply because you are not wearing your seat belt.
Can I be fined for not wearing my seat belt?
Yes. Front seat passengers sixteen and older can be fined up to $50 [Section 1229-c(3), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law].
What if I am driving and my passengers are not buckled up?
Drivers can be fined up to $100 for each passenger under the age of sixteen who is not properly restrained in their vehicles [Section 1229-c(2), NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law]. The driver will also receive three violation points on his or her driver record.
Are children required to wear seat belts on school buses?
School buses manufactured after 1987 must be equipped with seat belts, although New York State law does not currently require their use. However, a mandatory use policy may be in effect within your locality. To find out, ask your local school board. By state law, children under four years old must be secured in a child safety seat on a school bus.
Where can I get help for questions regarding seat belt fitting problems?
You can call the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration's Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236.
If I have driver-side and passenger-side air bags in my car, do I still have to wear my seat belt?
Yes. Your car's air bags were designed to be a supplemental restraint system. That is, they offer additional protection in the event of a crash. But air bags are not a substitute for seat belts. Rather, wearing a seat belt along with the added protection of an air bag can be highly effective in saving your life in an automobile crash.
Can children ride in the front seat when there is a passenger-side air bag?
Infants in rear-facing car seats should never be placed in the front seat of a car with a passenger-side air bag. While air bags provide effective protection for adult passengers, the great forces produced by an inflating air bag can injure or even kill a child. In fact, the safest place for children of all ages to ride is in the rear seat of the vehicle. If there is no other option, children in forward-facing child seats can ride in the front seat, but the passenger seat should be placed as far back from the dashboard (and air bag) as possible.
Safety belts are designed to distribute forces in a crash so they are absorbed by the strongest areas of your body. Seat belts keep you in place so you are less likely to strike the vehicle's interior, and they prevent you and other occupants from being thrown into each other or ejected from the vehicle.
There is a Correct Way to Wear a Safety Belt
When you buckle up, adjust your belt so it is positioned correctly.
The lap belt or lap portion of the lap/shoulder belt combination should be adjusted so it is snug and low across the hips and pelvis - never across the stomach.
The shoulder belt should cross the chest and collarbone and be snug. The belt should never cross the front of the neck or face. Do not add excessive slack (more than one inch) into the shoulder belt. If you have an automatic shoulder belt, the lap belt must be buckled manually. New York State law now requires vehicle occupants who are required to wear seat belts to wear both the lap belt and shoulder harness.
Some vehicles have shoulder belt adjusters that allow you to move the shoulder belt's upper anchorage. This feature makes it easier to adjust the shoulder belt so that it does not touch the neck.
Small adjustments in either the belt position or in your position on the seat can improve your comfort and make the belt work better in a crash.
There are Incorrect Ways to Wear Seat Belts
- Do not wear the belt across your stomach - in a crash serious injury can occur.
- Do not place the shoulder belt behind your back - your upper body is not restrained and injuries to the head and chest are likely.
- Do not wear the belt under your arm - the belt will ride over the lower part of your rib cage which could break ribs and cause internal injuries.
- in vehicles equipped with a combination lap and shoulder belt, all vehicle occupants who are required to wear seat belts must wear the shoulder strap across the chest, as designed by the manufacturer.
- in vehicles equipped with restraint systems that have a separate lap belt and shoulder harness, both must be worn by those occupants who are required to be belted.
Vehicles with Air Bags
If your vehicle has an air bag, it also has a safety belt system. Air bags were designed to provide supplemental protection in front end collisions, but offer little or no protection in other types of crashes. For maximum safety, lap and shoulder belts should be used together with air bags.
Be sure that your seating position allows at least twelve inches of space between you and the air bag compartment, since the air bag needs approximately eleven inches to deploy. The following list provides air bag safety tips:
- All passengers should be buckled in lap and shoulder belts.
- For those occupants who are required to wear seat belts, both lap and shoulder strap must both be worn.
- All children age 12 and under should be buckled in the back seat. Parents should be sure that belts are properly buckled across the chest and shoulder of the child. The child should never have the shoulder portion of the belt behind the back or under the arm.
- Infants in rear facing child safety seats should NEVER ride in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag.
- In New York State, children under the age of four are required to be in an infant, convertible or booster seat which is appropriate to their size and is properly secured. Children ages 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, riding in any seating position of a motor vehicle are required to be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system based on the weight and height of the child. For more information on child safety seats, see your owners manual, our Child Passenger Safety Information for Parents page and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web page.
- Passengers seated in front of an air bag should move the seat as far back in the tracks as possible, and sit back in the seat. Do not rest feet or objects on the door of the air bag compartment.
- Drivers should have the seat as far back in the tracks as possible and still be comfortably able to reach the pedals to drive. Reclining the seat back will also distance the driver from the steering wheel. Avoid gripping the steering wheel in any way that places an arm across the air bag container in the wheel's center.
- Avoid riding with objects in your hands which can be driven into the chest or face in an air bag deployment.
The Right Way to Sit
For the best protection, have the seat back upright and sit back in the seat. If you have the seat back in a reclined position or if you are slouched in your seat, your safety belts cannot work properly:
- the shoulder belt will not be against your chest,
- the lap belt could ride up over your stomach, and
- the belts will not be snug.
Restraint Systems and Children
Lap and shoulder belts do not provide adequate protection for infants and small children. They need the protection of a child safety seat designed for their body size. For more information, see our Child Passenger Safety Information for Parents page.
ir bags and children do not mix.
uckle all children up whether they use child safety seats, a child restraint system, or the vehicle's seat belts.
hildren age 12 and under should ride in the safest place in the car - the back seat.
Safety Belts and Pregnancy
Pregnant women should use safety belts.
- Research and experience indicates pregnancy is not a valid reason for exempting seat belt use,
- the main risk to the baby is injury or death of its mother,
- injuries and death to the baby are closely related to injuries to its mother, and
- mothers who wear safety belts sustain fewer injuries, and risk to the unborn baby is reduced.
Buckle Up in the Back Seat
Under Federal Law:
- December 11, 1989 - all passenger cars (except convertibles) manufactured for sale in the United States must come equipped with shoulder and lap belts in the window seating positions of the back seat.
- September 1, 1991 - convertibles, vans, light trucks, and multipurpose vehicles manufactured after this date also require shoulder and lap belts in the window positions of the rear seat.
Most vehicles manufactured before 1989 do not have combination lap and shoulder belts in the back seat. Retro-fit kits may be available for consumers who want them. To find out if a retrofit kit is available for your model vehicle, contact your dealer.
If your vehicle only has a lap belt in the back seat, wear it. Lap belts are proven safety devices. The belt will keep you in your seat and inside the vehicle during a crash. Remember to wear the belt low and tight on your hips and not over your stomach.
It is recommended that all passengers, in all seating positions, use safety belts. New York State's seat belt law has increased seat belt and child safety seat use, and is responsible for saving lives and reducing the severity of injuries. Buckle Up and take advantage of the best available protection in the event of a crash.
Related Sites & Sources
See the on-line brochure New York State's Seat Belt Law.
Visit the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) web site for information about:
- Air Bags
- Seat Belts
- Vehicle Safety
- Traffic Safety
A report titled Nighttime Enforcement of Seat Belt Laws: An Evaluation of Three Community Programs has been posted on the NHTSA Web site.