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Virginia Seat Belt Law

Virginia State Law Statute

Pursuant to Virginia State Code §46.2-1094, occupants of front seats who are 16 years or older are required to use safety lap belts and shoulder harnesses.  Children under 16 years of age are required by the seat belt law to be secured with a seat belt or within a car seat no matter where in the vehicle they are sitting.   Additionally, children must be secured in a car seat or booster seat based on the Virginia child seat guidelines outlined below.

 

Fines for Not Wearing a Seatbelt in Virginia

The penalty for violation of the Virginia seat belt law is $25.00, and for the car seat law it is $50.00.  The adult driver is responsible for all children in the vehicle who are under 16 years old no matter where in the car they are sitting, so the adult driver must properly implement the use of safety restraints, seat belts, child safety belts and/or child seats; however, if a passenger is 16 or older, they are legally responsible for themselves.


You cannot be pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt in Virginia because violation of the seat belt law is not a primary offense.  If you are pulled over for another violation and you are also violating the seat belt, child safety belt and/or car seat laws, you will be fined for the additional violation.

 

Who is Required to Wear a Seatbelt?

Passengers 16 years old and older are required to wear a seat belt when they are occupying the front seat of the vehicle. 


Passengers under 16 years old and sitting anywhere in the vehicle are required to wear a seat belt that fits snuggly across chest (or breastbone, for children) and hips, never under their arm or below the abdomen.  These passengers include children who meet the age, height and weight requirements and who have graduated from car seats and/or a child safety belt as a primary safety restraint.  If the age, height and weight requirements have not been met, these children are required to be secured in a car seat.


While pregnant women are required to wear a seatbelt, they should never secure a lap belt or any other safety restraint across their abdomen.


Medical conditions can excuse you from the seat belt law, as long as written statement is obtained by a physician and carried on you when driving.

 

Virginia Car/Child Seat Information

Virginia has adopted the following guidelines for age, height and weight requirements regarding the use of car seats:

  • Rear facing seat – Birth to 1 year and at least 20 pounds
  • Forward facing seat – 1 to about 4 and at least 20 pounds
  • Backless Booster seat – about 4 to 8 and under 4ft. 9 in.


Rear facing car seats must be secured in the backseat of the vehicle and children cannot ride unrestrained in the rear cargo area.  High-back booster seats follow the same recommendations as backless booster seats and both serve to boost and better position the child in the vehicle safety restraints.  These should be used until the child is of an age, weight and height that allows them to be properly restrained using a standard lap-belt and harness seat belt system.


No matter the type, each type of seat requires a safety belt or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) to hold it in place with no more than 1 inch side to side or forward movement allowed.


For rear facing car seats, use the slots that put the belt at the shoulders, and for forward facing car seats, the harness should rest at or slightly above shoulders.

 

Reasons for Using Seatbelts and Car Seats

Seatbelts prevent ejection from the vehicle and spreads the impact over a larger portion of the body, thereby decreasing your risk of fatal injury by 40%.  Coupled with airbags, your chances of survival are increased and medical related bills are significantly less.


A driver or passenger is 5 times more likely to die and 3 times more likely to suffer serious injuries if they are not restrained by a seat belt or car seat in a motor vehicle accident.  


At the time of a sudden stop or collision, your body and internal organs will continue to travel at great speeds until they meet resistance and come to a crashing halt.  If the steering wheel or windshield is the first point of impact, you will suffer serious musculoskeletal injuries.  Being restrained in a car seat or seat belt system reduces the amount of time and space you cover before impact, thereby reducing the chance of suffering serious injury.  This same principle holds true for your internal organs.  The speed at which they travel internally will increase if there is more time and space for them to do so.  Being safely restrained in a vehicle reduces the risk of internal injuries by reducing that space and time.

 

Types of Seatbelts

There are varying types of seatbelts that have been, although evolution of the safety industry has mean improvements.  The following seatbelts have been or are now recognized for use in motor vehicles:

  • Lap Belt – This is the strap that fits across your hips.  By itself, it is almost nonexistent, except in the rear middle seat of a vehicle.
  • Sash – This is the strap that fits across the chest/breastbone.  Again, by itself it is almost nonexistent.
  • Lap and Sash – This seatbelt system is a combination of the two types aforementioned. The Lap and Sash have been modified and updated and are now referred to as the Three-Point seatbelt and are found in the front driver and passenger seats, primarily.  In 2007, however, all new motor vehicles were required to be equipped with the Three-Point System in the center rear seat, also.
  • Belt-in-Seat (BIS) – A Three-Point system that is attached directly to the backrest.
  • Five-point harnesses – This is a more restrictive seatbelt system and is often found in car seats.  2-shoulder belts connected to a lap belt that secures between the legs comprise the Five-Point system.


If you are in an older vehicle that does not meet the lap-belt and safety harness recommendation, it is advisable to contact the car-maker about purchasing a seatbelt upgrade.  Car-makers are continually experimenting with new, more improved seatbelt systems that include airbag infused rear seatbelts and a Four-Point system that includes suspenders.  

 

How to Use With Children

According to the Virginia guidelines, to be able to fit in an adult seat belt the child must be tall enough to sit without slouching, keep his/her back against the vehicle seat back, keep his/her knees completely bent over the edge of the seat, keep his/her feet flat on the floor, and be able to stay comfortably seated this way. Furthermore, the lap belt must fit low and tight across the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt should rest over the center of the shoulder through the center of the chest.


If a child does not meet these requirements when they are secured in the seat, you must turn to one of the car seats to better suit their needs and provide a safe environment for the child.


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