It’s no secret that wearing a seat belt is a prudent safety measure. In fact, per CDC data , seat belts are effective in reducing serious automobile crash-related injuries and deaths by nearly 50% . In Arizona, however, seat belt use isn’t just recommended, it is required by law. Arizona is certainly not unique in legally mandating seat belts, as it is on par with every other state in the country except New Hampshire. Where Arizona does distinguish itself is how seat belt laws are enforced and categorized. Because failure to abide by state seat belt laws can have serious implications, it’s important that you know the facts about Arizona seat belt laws.
1. Primary Seat Belt Laws
With motor vehicle accidents accounting for over 1000 fatalities statewide in 2017 alone, it’s no wonder Arizona takes seat belt enforcement seriously. Seat belt laws are delineated into two types: primary and secondary. Primary seat belt laws are defined as ones that allow law enforcement officers to make traffic stops and issue citations based solely on driver or passenger failure to wear a seat belt. In other words, an officer does not need another reason, such as a moving violation, to make a stop and address a seat belt law violation.
Arizona is considered a primary enforcement state when seat belt laws involve child passengers. Specifically, drivers are accountable for making sure all children ages 16 years and younger are wearing a seat belt. Additionally, they are required to have children of certain age and height appropriately secured in a child restraint system (e.g., a booster or car seat depending on their size). If an officer observes any violation of these seat belt laws, he or she can pull over the driver and issue a citation, with each one carrying a potential penalty of $50.
2. Secondary Seat Belt Laws
Not only does Arizona have primary seat belt laws in place, it is also a secondary enforcement state for seat belt laws pertaining to adult drivers and passengers. While all drivers and passengers over the age of 16 are required by law to wear a seat belt, an officer cannot pull over a driver based on a seat belt law violation alone. If a driver is stopped for another unrelated violation such as speeding or failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, however, the officer can issue a citation upon observing a seat belt law violation. It is worth noting that passengers 16 and over can receive individual citations for failing to wear a seat belt while riding in the front seat. Penalty fines collected typically benefit the local jurisdiction.
3. Child Restraint and Seat Belt Laws
During last month’s National Child Passenger Safety Week, the CDC reminded us that car seat usage reduces the risk of serious injury in car crashes by up to 82% compared to just seat belt use alone. Additionally, the use of booster seats among children ages 4 to 8 years can reduce serious injury by over 40%. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has stringent regulations in place regarding child restraint systems, each dictated by age, weight, and height. Specifically, state law requires all children under the age of 8 and under 4’9 tall to be secured in a child restraint device. Additionally, all children ages 5 to 7 years and/or children under 4’9 must use a booster seat. It’s necessary that all child safety restraint devices are installed in accordance with manufacturer specs and aligned with your child’s height and weight. Only when a child reaches the age of 8 is he or she legally allowed to transition to a standard seat belt. Statewide inspection stations are available throughout the year in Arizona to help parents ensure their car seats and boosters are properly installed. It’s important to restate that Arizona law enforcement officers can pull over a driver if the officer observes or suspects that a child passenger is not properly secured via appropriate safety restraint.
Knowing the state seat belt requirements will not only keep you and your family safe on the roads, it will also help you stay compliant with Arizona law. A common question that arises in a car accident situation is what role seat belt use plays if parties are injured. Insurance companies and police officers will ask about driver and passenger seat belt usage during their investigation. Their findings could potentially impact claims and compensation. If you or a loved one have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, contact us today to discuss your rights, options, and the impact Arizona seat belt laws may have on your case.