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
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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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.