The Michigan seat belt laws, which first took effect in 1985, have achieved a usage rate of more than 94%. It is a primary offense not to wear a seatbelt, which means the police can stop and ticket a driver for not wearing one. There are different rules for the front and rear seat occupants and for adults and children.
How do the Michigan seat belt laws affect usage?
Statewide usage in Michigan was estimated to be 94.4% in 2019. After Michigan adopted its “secondary enforcement seat belt law” in 1985, usage jumped from 19.8% to 58.4%. After Michigan adopted its “primary enforcement seat belt law” in 2000, usage went from 70% to 83.5% within one month of the law taking effect.
Seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in the U.S. in 2017. It is estimated that an addition 2,549 lives could have been saved if all vehicle occupants had been wearing them.
Of the motor vehicle fatalities in Michigan in 2019 where occupants wearing them was known, 38.9% of the people killed had not been wearing them. In 2017, 47% of the people killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide were not wearing them.
How do the laws apply to people in riding the front?
Drivers and passengers riding in the front must “wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt” when they are in a motor vehicle that is being driven on Michigan roadways. (MCL 257.710e(3))
How do the laws apply to people riding in the back?
Michigan seat belt law does not require people who are 16 years of age or older to wear them when they are riding in the back of a car or truck.
However, it is not safe to go without wearing one. Research shows that unrestrained rear-seat passengers are 8 times more likely to sustain a serious injury in a car crash than rear-seat passengers who are wearing their seat belts.
What are the Michigan seat belt laws for children between the ages of 8 and 15?
The law requires kids who are between 8 and 15 to wear them no matter whether they are seated in the front or back of the vehicle. (MCL 257.710e(5))
What are the laws for children between the ages of 4 and 7?
Children who are between the ages of 4 and 7 AND who are “less than 4 feet 9 inches in height” must be “properly secured in a child restraint system” such as a car seat or booster seat. (MCL 257.710e(3)(b))
What are the laws for children under the age of 4?
The Michigan seat belt laws and the car seat laws require that children under the age of 4 must be secured in a “child restraint system” such as a rear- or forward-facing child car seat AND they must ride in the rear seat when the vehicle has a rear seat. (MCL 257.710e(3)(a); 257.710d(1)(2))
If there is no rear seat or if the rear seat is already occupied by other children under the age of 4, then a child can be secured in the front seat. However, a “child in a rear-facing child restraint system may be placed in the front seat only if the front passenger air bag is deactivated.” (MCL 257.710d(2))
Can the police stop you for violating the Michigan seat belt laws?
Yes. Not wearing one is a “primary” offense, which means the police can stop and ticket a driver just for violating the Michigan seat belt law, even if the driver has broken no other laws. (MCL 257.710e(7))
How do the laws apply to school buses?
No. If you are a passenger on a school bus, then you are not required to wear them. (MCL 257.710e(2))
What is the penalty for violating the Michigan seat belt laws?
There is a $65 fine for violation the laws. That consists of a $25 “civil fine and court costs” for actually violating the law and a $40 “justice system assessment.” (MCL 257.907(2) and (13))
Violating the laws is a “civil infraction” for which no points are assessed on a person’s driver’s license. (MCL 257.710e(9) and (14))
All of the above is also true for violating the child car seat laws, except that the “civil fine . . . shall not exceed $10.00.” (MCL 257.710d(4) and (5); 257.907(2))
What if I get in a car accident and I was not wearing one?
If you were injured in a car accident and you were not wearing a seat belt (but only if you were specifically required to by the Michigan seat belt laws), then that may be considered as “evidence of negligence” and used to reduce your recovery for pain and suffering damages from the at-fault driver. However, this cannot reduce your pain and suffering compensation recovery “by more than 5%.” (MCL 257.710e(8))
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(Sources: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, 2019, Fact Sheets, “Seat Belt Use”; State of Michigan, “Seat Belt History In The U.S. And Michigan” (“seat belt timeline”); NHTSA, “Seat Belts” page, “consequences”)