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Primary Versus Secondary Laws

Primary seat belt laws are one of the most effective enforcement tools available. A primary law allows police to stop an automobile and ticket the driver for not wearing a seat belt. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have primary laws.

Secondary laws allow the police to ticket a driver who is not wearing a seat belt, but the police must have already stopped the driver for some other reason. A person who is speeding or who goes through a red light or whose tail light is out can be stopped and ticketed; a person who is obeying all the laws but is not wearing a seat belt will not be pulled over in a state with no primary law.

Proponents of primary legislation point out the safety factor. More people will wear seat belts if they know they run the risk of being pulled over and ticketed. If the driver of a car is wearing a seat belt, chances are his or her passengers are too. Moreover, according to information from the National Safety Council (NSC), adults who buckle up are more likely to make sure their children are properly buckled up. In fact, according to NSC, overall seat belt usage can be as much as 15 percent higher in states with primary laws.

Inside Primary Versus Secondary Laws