An entire generation of Michiganders has no idea how bitter the battle over the mandatory seat belt law was back in the mid-1980s. After lengthy debates by state legislators in Lansing, the mandatory seat belt law went into effect for all Michigan residents in July 1985. In March 2000, not wearing a seat belt became a primary offense.
This means that under the current law, law enforcement officials can pull vehicles over solely for not wearing a seat belt. Drivers and passengers in the front seat must wear seat belts but adults sitting in a second or third row are not required. The fine is $65 for any passenger not wearing one, according to state law.
It’s no secret that seat belts have been proven to save lives. According to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Organization (NHTSA), the national use rate of seat belts among all Americans was nearly 91 percent in 2019. In addition, the NHTSA estimates that seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved nearly 15,000 lives in the U.S. last year.
Additionally, of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47 percent were not wearing seat belts, the agency added.
Back in Michigan, the estimated number of lives saved shows how critical seal belts are. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute calculated in 2015 that 2,659 lives had been saved in roughly the first 30 years that the state law had been in place.
It is important to note that while Michigan law does not require back seat passengers to wear seatbelts, those passengers are at as much risk and those in the front. In the U.S., 28 states require all passengers to wear seatbelts no matter where they sit. The bottom line is that regardless of where a passenger is sitting, a seatbelt is essential for minimizing potential injuries.
What requirements for children are spelled out in Michigan’s seatbelt law?
Michigan law requires that passengers ages 8-15 MUST wear a seat belt under all circumstances while riding in a motor vehicle regardless of whether they are in the front or back seat.
According to the Michigan State Police, children younger than age 4 must ride in a car seat in the rear seat if the vehicle has a rear seat. If all available rear seats are occupied by children under 4, then a child under 4 may ride in a car seat in the front seat. A child in a rear-facing car seat may only ride in the front seat if the airbag is turned off.
Children are required to be properly buckled in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4-feet-9-inches tall. Children must ride in a seat until they reach the age requirement or the height requirement, whichever comes first.
However, while the law explicitly requires all persons below 16 to buckle up, it does not state any requirement for persons over the age of sixteen. Unfortunately, this has led some to interpret the law as meaning that those over sixteen do not need to wear a seatbelt. However, despite this perceived legal loophole, passengers over the age of sixteen should still wear a seatbelt to cut risk of serious injury if they’re involved in a car accident.
What is the law for booster seats?
Despite these requirements, a high number of child passengers do not ride in a booster seat as required by law. Parents may be unaware of the law or may have challenges setting up their child’s car seat(s). Booster seats are imperative for child passengers as they are designed with children in mind to secure them properly to prevent serious injuries in the event of a car accident. This is especially important because standard-sized car seats are not made with children in mind and are far more likely to increase the risk of harm or injury to a child passenger.
Booster seats should be fastened securely into the car and should also be checked for any signs of damage on a regular basis. Local law enforcement agencies are often available to provide free guidance and help for parents in securing child or booster seats so that a car accident is less likely to cause a significant injury.
We all know that a seatbelt is an important safety device for passengers even though there is no guarantee Michigan residents will not suffer serious injuries in an auto accident even if a seat belt is worn. If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries from an auto, truck, or motorcycle accident, Lawrence Kajy and the auto accident attorneys at Kajy Law can help.
The entire staff at Kajy Law encourage all our clients to buckle up, not only because it’s the law, but because it can save lives.