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Standard Enforcement Information

Every state except New Hampshire has safety belt laws, but only 17 states and the District of Columbia have standard enforcement of their belt laws. Standard enforcement laws allow police officers to stop vehicles if the driver or front seat passenger is observed not wearing a safety belt; the law also applies to drivers who have not properly restrained a child. Secondary enforcement laws allow officers to issue a citation for failing to wear a safety belt only after stopping the vehicle for another traffic infraction.

Some have raised concerns that standard enforcement laws could lead to police harassment of minorities. However, according to a 1999 NHTSA report, surveys in California and Louisiana conducted shortly after these states upgraded to standard enforcement found that neither Hispanics (California) nor African Americans (Louisiana) reported receiving a greater number of safety belt citations than the public as a whole.

Currently, seventeen states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have primary laws in effect. Another thirty-two states have secondary enforcement laws, and New Hampshire has no seat belt use law at all. Fines for not wearing a safety belt in the United States currently range from a low of $5 in Idaho to a high of $75 in Oregon. In twenty-seven states, the fine is just $20-25.

Inside Standard Enforcement Information