Buckling Up in the Sunshine State – Florida’s State Seatbelt Laws
Americans today are buckling up, whether they are drivers or passengers. Statistics show that in 2018, the national seatbelt use rate was near 90 percent for all vehicle occupants, according to NHTSA reports. In Florida, statistics from 2017 and 2018 show a seatbelt usage rate of just over 90 percent, and an increase in the percentage of seatbelt usage for every year since 2013.
Florida’s State Seatbelt Law – The Basics
Florida’s state seatbelt law, known as the Florida Safety Belt Law, is contained in Section 316.614 of the Florida Statutes. The principal requirements of this law are:
- a driver of a motor vehicle must wear a seatbelt
- any passenger under the age of 18 must wear a seatbelt (or a child restraint, where appropriate and/or required)
- any front seat passenger over age 18 must wear a seatbelt
According to Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, not wearing a seatbelt in Florida is a primary offense. This means that a driver can be pulled over and cited for failing to wear a seatbelt even in the absence of another driving offense. Moreover, drivers and passengers over 18 can be cited for failure to wear seatbelts. In addition, drivers can be cited for violating the seatbelt law if passengers under 18 are not properly belted in.
Florida’s seatbelt law also contains provisions designed to guard against racial profiling in the enforcement of the seatbelt law. Among other things, a law enforcement officer who issues a seatbelt violation citation to an individual must record the individual’s ethnicity and race. This information is reported to Florida state government officials.
Florida’s State Seatbelt Law – Exceptions
Notably absent from mention in Florida’s seatbelt law are rear seat passengers over 18. What does this silence mean? Under Florida law, rear seat adult passengers (over 18) are not required by law to wear seatbelts. Nevertheless, and even if rear seat passengers are not required to wear seatbelts, passengers in any seat in a moving vehicle are well-advised to buckle up for safety reasons. According to the NHTSA, seatbelt usage saved almost 15,000 lives in 2017 alone. Moreover, the NHTSA reports that for the same year (2107), 47 percent of those killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 were not wearing seat belts.
Other exceptions to the seatbelt law exist, for example, for:
- people with medical conditions that makes seatbelt use inappropriate or dangerous
- employees of newspaper delivery services while delivering newspapers
- solid waste or recycling collectors while collecting trash or recycling on their designated routes
- rural letter carriers of the United States Postal Service while delivering mail
Effects of Violating Florida’s State Seatbelt Law in Personal Injury Cases
In the context of litigation involving negligence, Florida’s seatbelt law specifically provides that says that a violation of the seatbelt laws:
- does not constitute negligence per se
- cannot be used as prima facie evidence of negligence
- cannot be considered in mitigation of damages
If you would like to know more or have questions about Florida’s seatbelt law, contact Sholtes Law, PLLC. In addition, as Fort Pierce personal injury lawyers serving St. Lucie & Martin County, we can help you to better understand the law, and, if you are involved in a car accident, to understand and assess any potential claims.