North Carolina’s seat belt laws have been enforced for over thirty years, but that hasn’t stopped drivers from questioning what’s legally right and wrong when it comes to seat belt use. Laws change over time and aren’t always so clear. Freshen up your North Carolina seat belt knowledge before your next drive and take a look at the following laws you may not be aware of.

Everyone must buckle up.

This law may seem like an obvious fact, but many drivers believe only the operator of the vehicle legally has to buckle up. According to N.C.G.S. 20-135.2A, everyone must properly have a seat belt fastened when a vehicle is in motion. This law has changed from its original mandate in 1985, in which the driver and front seat passenger were only required to use a seat belt. Drivers must also keep in mind that any passengers ages 16 years old or younger must be in a secured child seat system or use a seat belt at all times.

There are a few exceptions to the buckling up rule that drivers should take note of. You may not be legally required to wear a seat belt if you:

  • Are a rural letter carrier
  • Deliver newspapers
  • Are a passenger of a garbage or recycling truck during collection times
  • Have medical or physical conditions that prevent seat belt restraint
  • Operate a vehicle not required to have seat belts under federal law
  • Frequently stop to deliver goods and typically drive 20mph or less
  • Are a passenger in a motor home, but not the driver or the front seat passenger
  • Are in custody of a law officer and being transported in the back of their vehicle

Vehicles cannot be stopped for an unbuckled back seat passenger.

If you pass an officer and he notices you as the driver or your front seat passenger do not have  seat belts on, he has the legal right to stop you and investigate. But if you pass an officer and he sees that only a back seat passenger is not using a seat belt, he cannot stop you for that reason alone. N.C.G.S. 20-135.2A(d1) specifically prohibits an officer from stopping a motorist solely for a back seat passenger not being buckeled. Keep in mind though, that if law enforcement stops your vehicle for another reason and realizes that your back seat passengers are unbuckled, then the officer can cite you for the offense.

The penalty for breaking the seat belt law has increased.

During the 1980’s when the seat belt law was mandated, the penalty fee was simple. Unbuckled drivers were fined $25 with no court costs. Since then, violators still pay that $25 fine, plus court fees that can take the final total over $100. If you’re cited for an unbuckled rear seat passenger, you’ll also pay $10, but with no additional court costs.

North Carolina’s seat belt laws are the easiest rules to follow while operating a vehicle. Don’t let this simple task be the reason for your next traffic infraction. But if you find yourself in a legal situation, whether seat belt related or involving another type of traffic violation, Ludlum Law Firm is here to help. Our traffic attorneys handle cases for drivers facing traffic infractions in Sampson and Duplin counties. Contact us today for a free legal consultation – we’re ready to get started on your case.