Can you get pulled over for not wearing a seat belt?

When you spot a patrol car, you might reach to make sure your seat belt is on. But what would happen if you weren't wearing one? Could you get a ticket?

Pennsylvania has more leniant seat belt laws than most states, with maximum fines of just $10 for the first offense. As an adult, you can only get ticketed for not wearing a seat belt if:

  • You are sitting in the front seat
  • You are also being ticketed for another offense (for example, speeding)

For drivers and passengers under age 18, it's different. You can get fined $10 if one of your children isn't buckled up, no matter where they are sitting, and even if you aren't doing anything else wrong. And young drivers can indeed be pulled over just because they aren't wearing seat bealts.

In other words, minors not wearing seat belts is a primary offense in Pennsylvania, but adults not wearing seats is a secondary offense. If you drive out of state, you should know that the majority of states treat anyone not wearing a seatbelt as a primary offense.

In 34 states, law enforcement doesn't need to suspect any other traffic offense to issue a citation for not wearing a seatbelt, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. States where this is true include Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and New York, as well as Washington, D.C.

Rather than keep track of what fines apply where and to what people, however, the easiest way to stay out of trouble is to make it a habit to buckle up - and make sure everyone else in your car buckles up too. 

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Theodore H. Swan, Jr., Attorney at Law
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