The seat belt is the single most important development in motor vehicle safety. Over the last few decades, seat belts have saved millions of lives. All 50 states have some type of seat belt law in place. Obeying the seat belt laws in Texas can keep you and your loved ones safe while driving, as well as protect you from legal trouble.
Seat Belt Facts and Statistics
Science has proven again and again that the safest choice vehicle occupants can make is to use a seat belt. The decision not to wear a seat belt can be fatal. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in a single year. An additional 2,549 lives could have been saved if everyone had worn a seat belt. NHTSA data shows that of the 22,215 vehicle occupants who were killed in 2019, almost half (47 percent) weren’t wearing seat belts.
Who Has to Wear a Seat Belt in Texas?
Everyone in Texas has to wear a seat belt under Texas Transportation Code Section 545.413. All drivers and passengers must buckle up on every ride, regardless of their age or position in the vehicle. The seat belt must be worn correctly, with the lap belt snugly across the hips and the shoulder belt crossing over the center of the chest. The only exceptions to the seat belt law are if:
- The seat is not designed with a safety belt (such as on a school bus).
- The individual has a medical waiver from a licensed physician stating a medical reason that he or she cannot wear a safety belt.
- The person is employed by the United States Postal Service and is doing a job that requires frequent entry and exit from the vehicle.
- The person is actively engaged in the delivery of newspapers.
- The person is employed by a utility company and is reading meters or performing a similar duty.
- The person is operating a commercial vehicle registered as a farm vehicle.
- The person is in a vehicle used exclusively to transport solid waste and is performing duties that require frequent entry and exit from the vehicle.
Unless one of these exceptions exists, a driver and all passengers must wear seat belts at all times. If the passenger is a child under the age of eight, he or she must be secured in a child safety seat. This means a rear-facing car seat, forward-facing car seat or booster seat, according to the child’s age, height and weight.
What Is the Penalty for Not Wearing a Seat Belt in Texas?
Anyone driving in Texas who violates the seat belt law by failing to wear a seat belt can face a punishment of a fine between $25 and $50. If a person violates the child safety seat law, he or she can face a fine of at least $100 and up to $200. Seat belt infractions are classified as misdemeanors in Texas, meaning they will go on a driver’s record.
Can Not Wearing a Seat Belt Impact Your Car Accident Injury Claim?
Failing to wear a seat belt in Texas can negatively impact a car insurance claim. Even if your vehicle contains other safety features, such as airbags, they will not work correctly without wearing a seat belt. If you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of a crash, the defense will most likely use this against you in an attempt to avoid liability for your injuries.
If it can be proven that you would not have suffered your injuries – or they would have been diminished – had you obeyed Texas’s seat belt law, this could reduce your financial recovery. Texas is a comparative fault state, meaning your financial recovery will be reduced by your percentage of fault, up to 50 percent. If you are given the majority share of fault for your injuries, you will be barred from financial compensation.
If you get into a car accident without a seat belt, it is important to contact an experienced car accident lawyer for advice.