Do All Cars Require Seat Belts? (Explained)

A seat belt is a strap attached to the seat of a vehicle that reduces and prevents passengers from sudden and harmful collisions.

You fasten it across your body to avoid being thrown out if there is a sudden stop.

A seatbelt is a vehicle’s safety device that has prevented and saved countless lives and would continue to do so.

But let’s find out if all cars require seatbelts.

Here Is the Short Answer to Whether All Cars Require Seatbelts:

Seat belts became a significant requirement in cars by 1968. The government mandated manufacturers to include this safety device during production. Before then; it was not required as cars often came without it but today all states have adopted this feature.

Are Seat Belts Required in Old Vintage Cars?

This depends on the year of production. Cars made before 1968 were not required to have a seat belt. Most manufacturers did not necessarily include it in production.

According to US law, owners of old cars have no legal obligation to fit seat belts. If you own an old vintage car produced before the law was passed, you are not required to have seal belts fitted in them.

However, US law states that children below 3 years are not allowed to be in cars without seat belts. For general safety reasons, it is logical to retrofit seat belts if your car does not come with them.

What Are the Latest Rules Around Seatbelts in Cars?

Each state has its laws governing the use of seatbelts. Some states require only the front passengers to buckle up, while other states demand that all passengers do this. However, there are some new rules and exemptions from the government on the use of seat belts. 

Taxi and Drivers

Formerly taxis and vehicles for hire were exempted from wearing seat belts because of certain reasons like safety and the constant closing and opening of doors for passengers. However, starting from November 2020, the US law mandated all passengers to buckle up (drivers and passengers).

It is also important to observe if your passenger has buckled up. Your vehicle can be pulled over and your passenger may receive a ticket for not wearing seat belts. If you are transporting a passenger under the age of 16, the driver will be liable and could receive a ticket. However, this only happens if a parent or guardian does not accompany the underage.

Medical Conditions

There are laws governing seat belt use in medical conditions. It may exempt passengers with a medical condition with an attached certificate for evidence. However, before issuing this certificate, the medical practitioner must judge the circumstance based on its own merit.

For instance, pregnancy might not lead to automatic exemption. 

Child Restraints

Children under the age of 8 or under 150cm in height or weight less than 36kg must use a child restraint system while traveling in a car or goods vehicle.

You can always get a fitting seat for their weight and height. However, if you are using a rear-facing car seat, you must deactivate the vehicle’s airbag for safety.

Are Seat Belts Required for the Backseat?

Manufacturers include rear seat belts in most cars, especially Y-shaped types. It was required because it is suitable for all window seats. However, they could include a three-point or two-points belt strap initially, but it later became mandatory for all to have a three-point strap.

This method is considered safer to prevent collisions than just a belt lap because it spreads evenly across the shoulder, chest and lap. 

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What Year Did Seatbelts Become Mandatory?

Seat belts have been mandatory equipment since 1968, according to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208. Therefore, vehicles produced after the law were mandated to have a pre-installed seat belt.

However, buckling up was not compulsory initially, it only came into effect when each state specified its own laws and requirement.

What Happens If You Drive Without a Seatbelt?

Driving without your seatbelt is as good as breaking the law and you will be penalized. In most countries, you would be required to pay fines or be given a ticket.

Asides from these penalties, not wearing a seat belt while driving is hazardous both to the driver and passengers. In the event of a car crash, not using your belt significantly reduces your chances of survival.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drivers who don’t wear a front seat belt are “30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash” Therefore, it is in your best interest that you drive with your seat belts on and inform your passengers to do the same for additional safety.

Not buckling up also poses a potential risk to other passengers in the same vehicle in a sudden crash.

Related: Do All Cars Come With Airbags Today? (Explained)

What If My Old Car Doesn’t Have Seatbelts?

If you own an old car produced before 1968, you have no legal duty to have seat belts fitted in. Cars produced before that year offered seat belts as a luxury and not a requirement.

This legal duty, however, varies. Some states may require that you get retrofit seat belts, while others may allow you to drive without them. Thus, you need to be aware of the law presiding over the use of seat belts in old cars.

How Can I Know What the Rules Were When My Car Was Built?

The easy way to identify this is to check your VIN. A VIN or Vehicle Identification Number is a unique string of letters and numbers assigned to each vehicle manufactured.

They help to check when the car was produced, the engine model, the transmission and other useful information. 

This makes it easier to check up on the vehicle’s law of that specific year your car was built and what rules apply to them. It is also best to contact your car dealer to get all the information regarding what rules were made at the time of manufacturing.

Are There Any Road-Approved Vehicles That Don’t Require Seat Belts?

Large school buses or commercial buses are not required to have seatbelts in some states. It is not required because they’re designed to be safer in preventing crashes than other vehicles.

Modern buses are heavier and they distribute the crash force better than smaller vehicles. Their passengers also sit high off the ground with closely spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs. However, the bus driver is required to buckle up while in transit.

What Triggers a Seat Belt?

The locking mechanism of a seat belt comes on either with the car or belt movement. If there is a sudden stop, it causes the pendulum in the restraint system to swing forward, causing the metal bar to jam. Unable to swing any further, the seat belt tightly holds the passenger in place.

In other vehicles, the restraint system activates a device that catches a toothed gear. This makes it unable to spin as it holds the passenger firmly.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Seat Belt?

It costs between $20 to $150 to replace a seat belt. However, the cost varies according to each state, and the labor needed. Sometimes it could be as much as $250.

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Can a Seat Belt Be Replaced After an Accident?

It is possible to replace a damaged seat belt after an accident has occurred.

However, they must be replaced and adjusted according to the OEM instructions. It is best to take such cases to the dealer to sort it out for you.

When Should You Replace Your Seat Belts?

Experts ‌recommend ‌you change your seat belt every 10 to 15 years. However, there are some other scenarios whereby you would need to change them:

  • If a crash or accident occurred
  • Any cuts or slashes on the belt
  • If the retractors fail to latch

Child car seats, restraints and seat belts |

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