If you taken one of the free DMV tests at driversprep.com, you know that you can comment and report any faults you find. One comment we frequently get is about safety belts. Shouldn’t all passengers in a car wear a safety belt?

The answer is, of course: Yes, they should!

But there is an important difference between what the law requires and what you should do. Meaning, there is a difference between must and should. Read the questions carefully.

In several states, laws vary depending on whether the passenger is seated in the front seat or in a rear seat.

Many state laws only require the driver and adult passengers to wear seat belts in the front seat. The following table below shows the current situation (source GHSA.org).

New Hampshire has neither a primary nor a secondary seat belt law for adults.

The table is divided into two categories: primary and secondary seat belt laws.

Primary seat belt laws allow law enforcement officers to ticket a driver for not wearing a seat belt, without any other traffic offense taking place. Secondary seat belt laws state that law enforcement officers may issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt only when there is another traffic violation.

States with Primary Seat Belt Laws
State Who is Covered (Yrs.) In What Seat
Alabama >15 Front
Alaska >16 All
Arkansas >15 Front
California >16 All
Connecticut >7 Front
Delaware >16 All
D.C. >16 All
Florida >6 Front
6 – 17 All
Georgia 8 – 17 All
>18 Front
Hawaii 8 – 17 All
>18 Front
Illinois <18, if driver <18 All
>16 Front
Indiana >16 All
Iowa >18 Front
Kansas 14 – 17 All
>18 Front
(secondary for other seating positions)
Kentucky <6 and >50" All
Louisiana >13 All
Maine >18 All
Maryland >16 Front
Michigan >16 Front
Minnesota <7 (and >57") or >8 All
Mississippi >7 Front
New Jersey <7 and >80 lbs. All
(secondary for rear seats)
New Mexico >18 All
New York <16 Rear
All Front
North Carolina >16 All
(secondary for rear seats)
Northern Mariana Islands >6 All
Oklahoma >13 Front
Oregon >8 or 4’9" All
Rhode Island >18 All
South Carolina >6 All
Tennessee >16 Front
Texas >15 All
<7 (and >57′) – <17
Washington >8 or >4’9" All
Wisconsin >8 All
States with Secondary Seat Belt Laws
Arizona 5 – 15 All
>5 Front
Colorado >18 (primary for <18) Front
Idaho >7 All
Massachusetts >13 All
Missouri 8 – 15 (primary) All
>16 Front
Montana >6 All
Nebraska >18 Front
Nevada >6 All
North Dakota >18 Front
Ohio 8 – 14

>15 Front
Pennsylvania 8 – 17 (primary) (eff. 12/24/11) All
>18 Front
South Dakota >18 Front
Utah >16 (primary for <19) All
Vermont >18 (primary for <18) All
Virginia All drivers; passengers >18
(primary for passengers <18 in all seats)
West Virginia 8 – 17 All
>18 Front
Wyoming >9 All

Remember that some states will accept a seat belt defense made to limit damages awarded in a car accident claim. This means that if you are injured in a car accident while not wearing a seat belt, your recoverable damages may be reduced, even if the car accident was entirely the other driver’s fault.