§291-11.6  Mandatory use of seat belts, when, penalty.  (a)  Except as otherwise provided by law, no person shall operate a motor vehicle upon any public highway unless the person is restrained by a seat belt assembly and all passengers in the front or back seat of the motor vehicle are restrained by a seat belt assembly or are restrained pursuant to section 291-11.5 if they are under ten years of age.

     (b)  The passengers of the following motor vehicles shall be exempt from the requirements of this section:  emergency and mass transit vehicles.  Further exemptions from this section may be established by rules adopted by the department of transportation pursuant to chapter 91.

     (c)  No person shall be guilty of violating this section if:

     (1)  The person is in a motor vehicle that is not required to be equipped with a seat belt assembly under any federal motor vehicle safety standard unless the vehicle is in fact equipped with a seat belt assembly;

     (2)  The person not restrained by a seat belt assembly is in a vehicle in which the number of persons exceeds the number of seat belt assemblies available in the vehicle or the number of seat belt assemblies originally installed in the vehicle, whichever is greater; provided that all available seat belt assemblies are being used to restrain passengers;

     (3)  The person not restrained by a seat belt assembly has a condition that prevents appropriate restraint by the seat belt assembly; provided that the condition is duly certified by a physician, a physician assistant, or an advanced practice registered nurse who shall state the nature of the condition and the reason the restraint is inappropriate;

     (4)  The person not restrained by a seat belt assembly is operating a taxicab or other motor vehicle used in performing a bona fide metered taxicab service that is regulated under chapter 269 or by county ordinance and is carrying passengers in the vehicle in the course of performing taxicab services; or

     (5)  Otherwise exempted by rules adopted by the department of transportation pursuant to chapter 91.

     (d)  This section shall not be deemed to change existing laws, rules, or procedures pertaining to a trial of a civil action for damages for personal injuries or death sustained in a motor vehicle accident.

     (e)  A person who fails to comply with the requirements of this section:

     (1)  Shall be subject to:

          (A)  A fine of $45 for each violation; and

          (B)  A surcharge of $10 that shall be deposited into the neurotrauma special fund; and

     (2)  May be subject to a surcharge of up to $10 that shall be deposited into the trauma system special fund.

     (f)  As used in this section:

     "Emergency vehicle" means an ambulance, a firefighting or rescue vehicle, or a police vehicle while on duty.

     "Mass transit vehicle" means a bus, including a school bus (but excluding a charter or sightseeing service bus) with a gross vehicle weight rating that is over 10,000 pounds, whether publicly or privately owned, that provides service to the general public or provides special service on a regular or continuing basis.

     "Restrained" means that the seat belt assembly is worn as it was designed and intended to be worn.

     "Seat belt assembly" means the seat belt assembly that is required to be in the motor vehicle under any federal motor vehicle safety standard issued pursuant to Public Law 89-563, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, as amended, unless original replacement seat belt assemblies are not readily available.  If replacement assemblies are not readily available, seat belts of federally approved materials with similar protective characteristics may be used.  Replacement seat belt assemblies shall be permanently marked by the belt manufacturer indicating compliance with all applicable federal standards. [L 1985, c 235, §1; am L 1986, c 40, §1 and c 238, §1; am L 1987, c 266, §1; am L 1988, c 223, §1; am L 1997, c 60, §5; am L 2000, c 294, §1; am L 2002, c 160, §6; am L 2006, c 175, §3; am L 2008, c 231, §5; am L 2009, c 151, §5; am L 2013, c 73, §1; am L 2014, c 45, §4; am L 2020, c 70, §39; am L 2022, c 122, §2]


Attorney General Opinions


  Operator of three-wheeled vehicle registered as a motorcycle is not required to wear a seat belt.  Att. Gen. Op. 92-3.


Case Notes


  Where defendant wore vehicle's Type 2 seat belt assembly, buckled, with lap belt running across defendant's lap and the shoulder harness tucked beneath defendant's left arm, defendant was not "restrained by a seat belt assembly" for purposes of this section (2005) under either the plain and obvious meaning of the statutory language or the intention of the legislature as expressed in that language.  111 H. 426, 142 P.3d 290 (2006).

  Statute applied to defendant, where defendant argued that traffic statutes involved only applied to businesses and state vehicles; statute did not violate defendant's freedom of movement.  77 H. 222 (App.), 883 P.2d 644 (1994).