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Consumer Tips – Safety Belts in California

According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), on an average day five people were killed in fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2009. Of those five, at least one was not wearing a seat belt.

The CHP asserts that “Every click of a seat belt represents another life potentially saved.” California state law mandates, in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, that anyone over age 16 must be buckled up while riding in a motor vehicle. There are separate requirements for safety restraints for children, discussed previously on this blog.

Not wearing a seat belt is a primary offense in California, meaning the police can pull you over even if your only violation is that you are not wearing a safety belt. Failure to follow safety restraint requirements can result in fines of at least $142 for an adult caught without a seat belt to at least $474 for a child who is not properly restrained in addition to serious, even fatal, injuries if a car accident occurs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that its own ‘click it or ticket’ program has raised seatbelt use throughout the country to 84 percent. Buckling up, according to the NHTSA, is the single most important thing anyone in a motor vehicle can do to prevent injury in case of a car accident.

The NHTSA also warns drivers and passengers not to assume that an airbag alone is sufficient to protect you from serious injury in the event of a crash. Air bags are intended to work in cooperation with seatbelts to protect vehicle occupants involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Also important is the proper fit of a safety restraint. The shoulder belt should not be tucked behind you but should be pulled over your shoulder and across your chest, away from your neck. The lap portion of a seat belt should sit across your hips, not your stomach.

Source: CHP News, “Saving and Securing Lives, One Seat Belt at a Time,” February 28, 2012

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