Person sitting in a car fastening their seat belt

It should come as no surprise that wearing a seat belt while both driving and riding in a motor vehicle is essential. Not only is doing so paramount for your safety, but wearing a seat belt is also required by law in the state of Texas. Here, we will explore the intricacies of Texas’ seat belt laws, why wearing a seat belt is important, and the penalties you will be charged with if you fail to wear one. 

Texas Transportation Code Section 545.413

In the state of Texas, seat belts are required to be worn by the driver and all passengers, regardless of whether they are in the front or back seat. Section 545.413 of the Texas Transportation Code spells out the specific offenses when it comes to not wearing a seat belt. According to the law, the following are violations:

  • Individuals ages 15 and older that are not wearing seat belts
  • Bus operators not wear a seat belt
  • The individual operating the motor vehicle allowing children under 17 to not wear a seat belt 

Essentially, this law states that everyone in the motor vehicle must wear a seat belt and liability starts at age 15. However, vehicle operators who allow any passengers under the age of 17 to ride without a seat belt may also be held liable on their behalf. Failing to wear a seat belt and ensuring minors are also wearing a seat belt may result in a misdemeanor offense, with fines ranging from $25 to $200.

Primary Enforcement

It is important to note that there are two distinctions of enforcement when it comes to wearing a seat belt – primary and secondary. Primary seat belt laws allow for law enforcement to issue a ticket to those in violation, regardless of any other traffic offense occurring. Secondary seat belt laws are contingent on another traffic infraction occurring. Texas falls under primary enforcement law, meaning a police officer could pull you over and cite you for solely not wearing your seat belt.  

Exemptions

Although all drivers and passengers in the state of Texas are required to wear a seat belt, there are a few individuals who are exempted from this law. Those exempted include:

  • United States Postal Office workers
  • Individuals who have a physician’s statement that exempts them from wearing a seat belt for medical reasons
  • Waste and garbage collectors
  • Newspaper delivery individuals
  • Utility meter readers
  • Individuals operating a commercial farm vehicle that is 48,000 pounds or less

Importance of Wearing a Seat Belt

Wearing a seat belt is very important for a number of reasons, but most importantly for your safety. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatality by 45% for individuals in the front seat of a passenger vehicle and 60% for individuals in pickup trucks. In the event you get into an accident, a seat belt can protect you and prevent you from being more severely injured. When you are correctly wearing your seat belt, it will help to distribute the force of the impact, prevent you from being ejected, and will enhance the effectiveness of airbags. Not wearing a seat belt greatly increases your risk of injury and fatality.

How To Properly Wear Your Seat Belt

Wearing your seat belt is one thing, but wearing it correctly is what will make all the difference. There are a few different elements that go into wearing your seat belt correctly including:

  • Make sure the lap belt lies comfortably across your hips, not your stomach
  • Keep your shoulder belt rested comfortably across your chest, not too high or low
  • Do not place your shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back
  • Make sure your seat belt is not twisted

Legal Consequences in an Accident

Not only is not wearing a seat belt unsafe, but it can also be a contributing factor if you are filing a claim for a car accident. In the event you get into a car accident and you are not wearing your seat belt, this may impede your ability to recover maximum compensation and damages, as insurance companies may argue you were partially at fault for the injuries you sustained. However, a San Antonio car accident lawyer can help to protect you, defend your rights, and ensure you recover the compensation you deserve. Next time, you are in a motor vehicle, be sure to buckle up to ensure your own safety.

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