What Is the Seat Belt Law in Indiana?

Mother fastening her son in child safety seat inside car.

Under Indiana law, anyone age 12 and older riding in a moving vehicle must wear a seat belt. For occupants under 12, Indiana requires drivers to secure children in an age- and size-appropriate child safety seat or booster seat. 

Using seat belts, child safety seats, and booster seats can help reduce the chances of severe injuries in a motor vehicle accident. Following Indiana’s seat belt and child restraint laws will protect yourself and your loved ones in a crash. It can also strengthen your position if you need to pursue financial compensation in a car accident claim.

Are There Exemptions to Indiana’s Seat Belt Law?

Indiana’s seat belt laws may not apply in limited circumstances. For example, vehicle occupants do not have to wear seat belts if the vehicle doesn’t have seat belts that meet federal standards. They also may not have to wear seat belts in impractical situations, such as when a patient is riding in an ambulance.

Drivers who make frequent stops while traveling at slow speeds, such as postal workers, may not have to wear seat belts while driving. People riding in vehicles used for occupational farming do not have to comply with the seat belt law either.

Can I Be Pulled Over for Not Wearing a Seat Belt?

Indiana considers violations of the seat belt and child restraint laws a primary offense, so a police officer can pull you over if they see you or one of your passengers not buckled up. A primary offense means that an officer does not need reasonable suspicion or probable cause that you’ve committed another traffic offense, like speeding, before initiating a traffic stop.

Is There a Fine for Not Wearing a Seat Belt?

If the police stop your vehicle because you or one of your passengers aren’t wearing a seat belt, you may receive a ticket for a $25 fine. The penalty may be greater if the passenger is under 12.

What Are Indiana’s Guidelines for Child Safety Seats?

Indiana transportation officials have issued guidelines for vehicle occupants under 12 to use child safety or booster seats. These guidelines follow children by age, although younger children can move to a different type of safety or booster seat if they exceed their current seat’s height and weight limits. Indiana guidelines for child safety seats recommend:

  • Up to 12 months old – Infants must ride in a rear-facing child safety seat installed in the vehicle’s back seats.
  • 1 to 3 years old – Toddlers must remain in a rear-facing child safety seat until they meet the seat’s maximum height and weight limits. At that point, they should ride in a forward-facing child safety seat with a three-point harness installed in the rear seats.
  • 4 to 7 years old – This age group must remain in a forward-facing child safety seat until reaching the seat’s height and weight limits and then ride in a booster seat fitted in the vehicle’s back seats. Booster seats should position a child so that the vehicle’s seat belt sits correctly across the child’s body. The lower strap should sit across the child’s lap rather than their abdomen. The cross strap should sit across the child’s shoulder and chest rather than across their neck.
  • 8 to 12 years old – Older kids should remain in a height- and weight-appropriate booster seat until they reach a size where the vehicle’s seat belt will sit properly across their body without the booster seat.

The guidelines further recommend that children continue to ride in the vehicle’s back seats until they turn 13, even after they’ve outgrown booster seats.

Should Child Seats Be Replaced After an Accident?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that parents replace child safety seats or booster seats after their vehicle has had a moderate or severe crash. Moderate to severe collisions can damage car seats, so they will not provide complete protection in a subsequent crash. Parents do not need to replace seats after a minor wreck unless the seat has visible damage. A minor crash includes any accident where:

  • The vehicle could drive away from the crash site.
  • The vehicle door nearest the car seat suffered no damage.
  • No occupants suffered injuries.
  • The vehicle’s airbags did not deploy.

Parents should dispose of car seats after a moderate to severe car accident. Never use a used or hand-me-down car seat, as you may not know whether the seat has suffered damage in a motor vehicle accident.

Will It Affect My Car Accident Claim If I Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?

Fortunately, Indiana law prevents an insurance company or an at-fault driver from using the fact that you failed to wear a seat belt in a car crash to reduce your financial recovery. Any failure to wear a seat belt is not considered fault or negligence by an injured car accident victim. An insurer may not use the fact that you didn’t wear a seat belt to limit their liability for your injury losses. Similarly, a defendant in a car accident trial may not try to reduce your financial recovery by admitting into evidence the fact that you didn’t wear a seat belt.

However, failure to wear a seat belt may serve as evidence in a car accident case involving a product liability claim revolving around the vehicle’s restraint system. A vehicle manufacturer may use your lack of a seat belt to lessen liability by presenting evidence showing that you would have suffered fewer or less severe injuries had you worn a seat belt in the crash.

Contact an Indiana Car Accident Lawyer

When you or your child have suffered injuries in a car crash caused by another driver’s negligence, your family may have a claim to seek compensation for your ongoing and future losses. Contact Truitt Law Offices today for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced car accident attorney to learn how we can help you pursue financial recovery and justice for your family.

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About the Author

Phil Truitt joined Truitt Law Offices in 2018 after he earned his J.D. from Ohio Northern University Ohio Northern Pettit College of Law. However, his association with the law firm dates all the way back to childhood. His father, Richard, established the firm over 40 years ago. Growing up, Phil…