Whether or not you enjoy wearing a seat belt, its safety benefits cannot be denied. Seat belt laws are in place to protect drivers and vehicle occupants from serious injuries in car accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017 (the most recent year data is available). Find out if and when you need to wear a seat belt under Arizona law, as well as the possible repercussions of failing to buckle up.
What Are Arizona’s Seat Belt Laws?
According to Arizona Revised Statute Section 28-909, all motor vehicle passengers who are under the age of 16 must wear seat belts in Arizona. It is the driver’s legal responsibility to ensure that passengers under the age of 16 buckle up with a lap and shoulder belt. Otherwise, the driver can face fines and penalties. In addition, anyone in the front seat of a vehicle, including the driver, must wear a seat. The only people who are not legally required to buckle up in Arizona are backseat passengers who are over the age of 16.
Arizona’s Car Seat Laws
Children who ride in motor vehicles must be properly secured in child restraint systems, according to Arizona Revised Statute Section 28-907. A child restraint system refers to a car seat or booster seat, depending on the age, height and weight of the child. In general, a child must use a rear-facing car seat, forward-facing car seat or booster seat (whichever is appropriate) until he or she turns eight years old and/or reaches four feet nine inches tall.
What Is the Penalty for Not Wearing a Seat Belt in Arizona?
The penalty for breaking Arizona’s seat belt law is $10 per violation. However, the fine is closer to $50 per violation if a driver breaks the child car seat law. This will be assessed for each person in the vehicle who legally should have been wearing a seat belt. Since the driver is the person responsible for making sure that young passengers are wearing a seat belt, the fine goes to the driver.
Arizona’s seat belt law is a secondary offense, meaning the police must have another reason to make the traffic stop. On top of the fine, a driver in Arizona could also face repercussions against his or her driving privileges. While Arizona does not add points to a driver’s license for breaking the seat belt law, the violations are put on the driver’s record. This could lead to consequences such as higher car insurance premiums.
Can Not Wearing a Seat Belt Affect Your Car Accident Claim?
Yes. Arizona is one of the states that allow the reduction of a plaintiff’s damages for the failure to wear a seat belt. This means that a car accident victim may receive less money in financial compensation if the other driver’s insurance company proves that he or she was not wearing a seat belt, and if this contributed to the victim’s injuries. The law presiding over this defense is Arizona’s comparative negligence rule.
Comparative negligence means that the degree to which the person filing the claim caused the accident will reduce his or her financial recovery. In Arizona, comparative negligence can reduce a victim’s recovery in proportion to his or her degree of fault. For example, if a victim is eligible for $20,000 in financial compensation for bodily injuries but is found to be 10 percent responsible for the injuries from not wearing a seat belt, the $20,000 reward would be reduced by 10 percent ($2,000) to $18,000.
The seat belt defense only applies if the defense can prove that the injured victim’s injuries reasonably would have been prevented had he or she been wearing a seat belt. This defense is generally only allowed if the victim is someone who legally should have been wearing a seat belt under Arizona law. Since Arizona uses a pure comparative negligence rule, a victim can still be eligible for partial financial compensation even with 99 percent of the blame. A Phoenix car accident attorney can help you explore your legal options.
To find out how not wearing a seat belt might affect your particular car accident case, consult with an attorney in Phoenix today.