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 clear. Freshen up your North Carolina seat belt laws knowledge before your next drive.

Everyone must buckle up.

This law may seem like an obvious fact, but many drivers believe only the vehicle operator legally must 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 passengers aged 16 years old or younger must be in a secured child seat system or always use a seat belt.

There are a few exceptions to the buckling up rule that drivers should know. 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 the 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 that you as the driver, or your front seat passenger, are not wearing a seatbelt, he has the legal right to stop you and investigate. However, you cannot be stopped if the officer only notices that a backseat passenger is not wearing a seatbelt. N.C.G.S. 20-135.2A(d1) specifically prohibits an officer from stopping a motorist solely for a back seat passenger not being buckled.

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.

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The penalty for breaking the seat belt law has increased.

During the 1980s, 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 to 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 a 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.