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What Is the Seat Belt Law in Indiana?

October 1, 2019
Driver fastening his seatbelt for safety.

When a vehicle traveling at even a slow speed comes to an immediate, complete stop as in a car accident, it can send occupants flying forward, toss them about the cabin or, in the worst cases, eject them from the vehicle. For this reason, it is vitally important for people to wear their seat belts and put their children in proper safety seats when they are driving. It just makes sense.

Wearing a seat belt is also a matter of law in Indiana and throughout the country. Here, we take a closer look at those laws for adults and children. We also discuss how wearing a seat belt could affect your personal injury claim if you should ever get involved in a car accident. Talk to an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney to know more information about Seat Belt Law in Indiana.

The Basics of Indiana Seat Belt and Child Restraint Laws

Under Indiana law, any occupant of a motor vehicle who is age 16 or older must be properly restrained in a seat belt. The law applies to drivers and all passengers, regardless of whether they are seated in the front or back of the car. It also applies regardless of whether you are riding in a standard passenger vehicle or a pickup truck.

Indiana’s seat belt law is a “primary” enforcement one. In other words, a law enforcement officer can pull you over if the officer has reason to suspect that you are not buckled up as the law requires. If you are found to have violated the law, then you can get a ticket for a Class D infraction. Even though this violation won’t add points to your driving record, it could result in a $25 fine.

Additionally, under Indiana law, any adult who operates a motor vehicle with a child who is younger than age 8 must ensure that the child is properly restrained in a “child restraint system” according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The only exceptions to this requirement are:

  • The child weighs more than 40 pounds, or
  • The adult has a certificate from a doctor stating that it would be impractical to restrain the child in a child safety seat due to the child’s physical or mental condition.

If the child is between the ages of 8 and 16, the child must be restrained in a child safety seat or a seat belt, regardless of where the child sits in the car. As with the seat belt law, a violation is a Class D infraction that carries a $25 fine, but it won’t lead to points on the adult’s driving record.

If a law enforcement officer issues you a ticket for violating the child restraint law, you can avoid a fine by going to court and showing the judge that you have since obtained a child restraint system. If you have not obtained one by your court date, a judge may issue an order that gives you 30 days to comply with the law.

Why Should You Use Seat Belts and Child Safety Seats?

It’s a fact: Seat belts save lives. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that seat belts saved almost 15,000 lives in 2017 alone. Fortunately, in Indiana, most people understand the importance of buckling up when they get behind the wheel.

According to the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, between 2008 and 2017, the rate of seat belt use in our state among passenger vehicle occupants rose slightly from 91 percent to 93 percent, which is three percentage points above the national rate. However, seat belt use in pickup trucks is not as high as among those in passenger vehicles, with only 84 percent of occupants following the law.

What Are the Best Practices for Child Safety Seats?

The NHTSA and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest that parents keep their children in car seats for as long as the child fits the manufacturer’s weight and height limits. They also make the following recommendations based on the child’s age:

  • Birth to 12 months – Parents should put the child in a rear-facing car seat.
  • 1 to 3 years – Until the child reaches the car seat manufacturer’s height or weight limit, parents should keep the child in a rear-facing seat.
  • 4 to 7 years – The child should stay in a forward-facing car seat until the child reaches the manufacturer’s height or weight limits. If the child outgrows the car seat, the child should be moved to a booster seat.
  • 8 to 12 years – Until the child can fit properly in a seat belt, the child should stay in the booster seat. Generally, the child should be at least 4-foot-9 before the child switches out of the booster seat.

When mounting a car seat, you should always use the installed anchors that are built into the vehicle. Although some older vehicles may not have anchors, these are the best choice. Likewise, if you use a booster seat that does not have a back, you should be sure that the seat is equipped with a headrest that is height appropriate. You do not want to create a situation where the child’s neck and head are above the seat back. This can lead to severe head and neck traumas in an accident.

Can Failure to Wear a Seat Belt Affect Your Car Accident Claim?

Indiana does not permit what is known as the “seat belt defense.” In other words, a defendant in a car accident lawsuit cannot argue that the victim should not be compensated because he or she was not wearing a seat belt. Regardless, you will be better off if you wear your seat belt and make sure that your child is always either wearing a seat belt or using a car seat.

Get Help from Our Indiana Car Accident Attorneys Today

Auto accident injuries can leave families devastated and suffering for months or even years after a crash. If you or a loved one are dealing with the pain and financial fallout of a car accident in Indiana, give Truitt Law Offices a call today. With offices in Indianapolis, Huntington, and Fort Wayne, we are here when you need us. Our consultations are always free and confidential.

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