Most people understand that seatbelts save lives. However, seatbelts are also generally required by law. Here, we want to discuss the seatbelt laws in Georgia so that you thoroughly understand your obligations when you get in a vehicle either as a driver or a passenger. Further, we want to discuss what the penalties are for violating Georgia seatbelt laws as well as whether or not police officers can stop you solely for not wearing a seatbelt.
Are You Required to Wear a Seatbelt?
When we turn to Georgia law, we can see that drivers and front-seat passengers are required to wear seatbelts (O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1). The law also says that any person 17 years of age or younger in the back seat must also be restrained. However, adults riding in the back seat or not required to wear their seatbelts.
Early in 2020, there was talk about possibly passing a bill that will require every occupant in the vehicle, regardless of their age, to wear a seatbelt. This is commonly referred to as a “universal seatbelt law.” The Georgia State Patrol already encourages every passenger to buckle up, regardless of their age and regardless of where they are sitting in the vehicle.
SFC Christopher Nease of the Georgia State Patrol said that “It seems a little ridiculous at times because it feels like you’re sending a message that you have to be restrained in the front to keep you safe, but you’ll be fine in the back seat.”
The last time there were any changes to Georgia’s seatbelt laws was in 2010 when it became mandatory for drivers and passengers in pickup trucks to wear seatbelts. Georgia is one of 20 states across the country that does not require adults in the back seat to wear their seatbelts.
Can You Recover Compensation for an Accident if You’re Not Wearing a Seatbelt?
Georgia’s modified comparative fault laws state that if you are found to be 49 percent at fault or less you can pursue compensation for your damages. If you are involved in a car accident and you weren’t wearing a seat belt, depending on your percentage at fault you may still be able to pursue compensation. A Newnan car accident attorney will be able to help analyze the specifics of your accident and determine if you are able to pursue damages.
Consequences for Violating Seatbelt Laws
The seatbelt violation penalties in Georgia varies depending on the age of the person not wearing a seatbelt.
- If the occupant is an adult, the penalty is a $15 ticket.
- If the occupant is a child eight years of age or older, the punishment is a $25 ticket.
- If the child is under four years old and not in a proper safety seat, the punishment is a $50 ticket for a first offense and a $100 ticket for a second offense.
Data available from the Atlanta Journal Constitution shows that, during a recent reporting year, 44% of all traffic deaths in Georgia occurred to those who were not wearing their seatbelts. Nationally during the same period, 43% of those who died in crashes were not wearing a seatbelt.
Can the Police Stop You For Not Wearing a Seatbelt?
In Georgia, a seatbelt law violation is considered a primary offense, and a police officer can pull somebody over based solely off of them not wearing a seatbelt. This differs from states where a seatbelt violation is a secondary offense. In those states, law enforcement can only write a ticket for a seatbelt violation if they have pulled somebody over for a valid infraction and then notice the seatbelt violation.