Policeman issuing fine with the driver in the background

Safety should always come first when driving in a vehicle and every passenger should wear a seatbelt, but does Indiana law require it for backseat passengers to wear them? In this article, our car accident lawyers will discuss state and federal seat belt laws, why every passenger should wear their seatbelt at all times, the consequences of not following the laws, and Indiana seat belt crash data.


State Seat Belt Laws

Indiana law states that all passengers over the age of 16, must wear a seatbelt whether they are in the front seat or backseat. New Hampshire is the only state that does not require all adult passengers sitting in the front seat to wear a safety belt.

There are currently 39 states that have adult backseat seat belt laws. The states that do not have back seat belt laws include:

  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio

Although front seat safety may be incredibly important, laws regarding backseat seat belt use are very behind in many states.


Federal Seat Belt Laws

Federal laws regarding seat belts focus more on the manufacturers, not passenger and driver usage. Federal laws require every motor vehicle to have adequate safety seat belts in every seat. This law excludes buses.

In order to ensure all driver and passenger safety, every seat in a vehicle must have a safety belt. You would not be arrested for not using a seatbelt by the federal standards; however, each state has its own set of laws regarding seat belt use.


Child Safety Restraints

Any child under the age of 8 must be buckled using a child restraint system.

Indiana’s child car seat laws are based on weight, height, and age and include the following provisions:

  • Infants under one year of age that weigh less than 20 pounds must be restrained with a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children over one year of age that weigh at least 20 pounds have the option to use a forward-facing car seat.
  • Children that weigh at least 30 pounds can use a booster seat.


How Seat Belt Laws Are Enforced by States

There are 20 states, including Indiana, Delaware, and Alaska, that use primary enforcement regarding seat belt use. This means a police officer is allowed to pull you over if they notice a passenger or driver is without a seatbelt.

There are 11 states, including Maryland, Kansas, and Idaho, that use secondary enforcement regarding backseat passengers. Police are unable to pull over a driver simply because an adult residing in the backseat is not wearing their seatbelt. If you are pulled over for a different reason, like running a traffic light or speeding, the officer can cite or fine you for not following backseat seatbelt laws.

States with primary enforcement laws tend to have higher seat belt usage than states with secondary enforcement. If more primary enforcement laws were used in states not currently utilizing them, there would likely be a larger drop in car accident injuries and fatalities each year.


Should You Always Wear Your Seat Belt?

Just because several states do not have laws for backseat passengers to drive without a safety belt, it does not mean it is safe to do so.

In many car crashes, the unbuckled passengers in the backseat get tossed around the vehicle’s cabin, causing preventable injuries to the unbuckled passengers, as well as their fellow occupants.


Unbuckled Passengers in The Backseat- The Legal Consequences

The driver of a vehicle can be cited for a backseat passenger who is not wearing their seatbelt, even if they themselves are wearing their safety belt. For the majority of states, the fines for drivers without seatbelts and backseat passengers are the same. In Indiana, police can give out a $25 ticket for a child or adult occupant who is unbuckled in a vehicle.


Indiana Seat Belt Data

The Indiana Highway Safety Plan shows that nearly 52% of drivers in Indiana that were killed in 2015, were not wearing a safety belt. Unbuckled drivers were 14 times more likely to suffer a fatality than drivers wearing their seatbelt.

Of the 2015 fatalities, 39% of those occupants were front-seat passengers not wearing their seat belts, and 70% of those occupants were backseat passengers not wearing their seatbelts.


Contact a Car Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a car accident, the car accident lawyers at Wagner Reese can help you fight for the compensation you need. Contact us online for a free, no-obligation case review.