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Personal Injury

Seat Belt Laws and Personal Injury Claims in Rhode Island

June 9, 2018

Updated: May 9, 2022

seat belt laws

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved the lives of approximately 14,000 Americans involved in motor vehicle accidents in 2015. Seat belt laws vary by state, however, wearing your seat belt is an important way to prevent car accident injury.

Federal Seat Belt Laws

On the federal level, two categories of safety belt enforcement exist for states to adopt: primary enforcement and secondary enforcement.

Primary enforcement allows police officials to pull you over and write a citation solely because they observed you not wearing a safety belt.

Secondary enforcement means that a police officer may only issue you a citation for a seat belt violation if you were pulled over for a separate traffic violation first.

Although certain states have varying degrees of seat belt regulations for adults, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have child safety seat laws in place.

Rhode Island Seat Belt Laws

Rhode Island state law requires that all operators and passengers driving in the state wear a seat belt. Rhode Island has adopted the primary safety belt law, under which police officers can pull you over if they notice you or a passenger are not wearing a safety belt.  Here are some of the recommendations on seat belt use from the Rhode Island State Police based on Rhode Island General Laws §31-22-22:

  • Any passenger aged 13+ must wear a safety belt and/or shoulder harness system regardless of seating position.
  • All motor vehicle operators are required by law to wear a safety belt or shoulder harness system
  • Infants and toddlers under age 2, weighing under 30 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat.
  • Children under the age of 8 who are less than 57 inches (4 feet 9 inches) tall and fewer than 80 pounds must sit in the back seat and be properly secured in a booster seat.
  • Children aged 8-12 may sit in any seating position but must wear a seat belt.