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How Much Is a Seatbelt Ticket: State-By-State Guide

Everyone knows that wearing a seatbelt can save your life, but in some states, staying harnessed can also save you a ton of money!

States began enforcing seat belt usage in the 1980s. New York was the first to require front-seat passengers to wear a harness or face a $50 ticket in 1985. A decade later, nearly every state had a seat belt law in the books, and since then, many enforcements have gotten stricter and pricier.

How expensive are seatbelt tickets today? It mostly depends on where the cops pull you over, and the difference in the fines between states can be substantial. Let’s explore the impact it can have on your wallet with this look at the cheapest and most expensive states to get a seatbelt ticket.

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What Are Primary and Secondary Enforcement?

Higher seatbelt ticket costs tend to appear in states that more aggressively enforce their seatbelt laws. The essential difference is whether the state is a primary or secondary enforcement state.

An officer can pull you over if you or one of your passengers is not wearing a seatbelt or proper restraint in a primary enforcement state.

In a secondary enforcement state, an officer cannot pull you over for not wearing a seatbelt. But they can issue a ticket if you aren’t wearing one when they stop you. For instance, if an officer pulls you over for speeding, they can write a secondary ticket when they notice a missing seatbelt.

Currently, 34 states (plus D.C.) have a primary enforcement seatbelt law. Secondary laws exist in 15 states. If you noticed that the math isn’t quite right, it’s because New Hampshire is the one state that has no seat belt laws for adults aged 18 and over.

man fastening seatbelt
Image Credit: Patcharanan, Shutterstock

How Much Is a Seatbelt Ticket?

The base fine for most seatbelt tickets, no matter the state, is usually only $10–$50 for the first offense. Second and third offenses can accrue higher base fines, with some as low as $25 and others exceeding $200.

While a single seatbelt ticket may not sound like much, the court may also add surcharges, administrative fees, and court costs associated with a traffic violation. Not all states charge anything beyond the base fine, but the costs can be extreme in those that do.

You can see the impact of added fees by comparing one of the cheapest seat belt tickets and one of the most expensive. An Arizona seatbelt ticket is $10, and a California seatbelt ticket is $20. It doesn’t seem like much of a difference until you consider that California tacks on another $142 in fees and assessments for a total of $162 for one seatbelt violation.

Additional Costs

The cost of a seatbelt violation isn’t always limited to paying a ticket. Child safety restraint laws are particularly harsh. Failing to provide a proper child seat typically involves higher fines, and depending on the state, you may also end up with 1–3 demerit points on your license or be required to take driver’s education classes.

In states that issue points or consider seatbelt tickets to be moving violations, the hit could impact your insurance rates. If your provider sees a moving violation on your driving record, they may increase your premiums.

Front Seat and Back Seat Requirements

In some states, fines can differ significantly based on the seating location of a rider. For instance, in North Carolina, a front seat infraction costs $25.50 plus court costs, resulting in $180 in out-of-pocket expenses, but a rear seat ticket is only $10. Meanwhile, other states don’t have any backseat laws for adults.

Age Requirements

Seatbelt laws vary in complexity between states. Many states keep it simple, imposing a single penalty for anyone without a seatbelt. Others increase fines for minors, often to an extreme degree. For instance, Texas issues a $50 fine to any adult without a seatbelt but gives the driver a $100–$200 penalty for anyone under 17 who isn’t wearing one.

police ticketing a car near pier
Image Credit: Jonathan Cooper, Unsplash

States with the Most Expensive Seatbelt Tickets

Primary or Secondary Seatbelt Ticket Age/Seats Child Safety Seat Ticket
Texas Primary $200 (under 17); $50 (over 17) 8+/All $250
North Carolina Primary (secondary for back seat) $180 16+/All $266
California Primary $162 16+/All $490
New York Primary $135 16+/All $100
Oregon Primary $130 16+/All $130
Iowa Primary $127.50 18+/Front $195
Washington Primary $124 8+/All $124
Florida Primary $116 6+/Front $60
Hawaii Primary $102; $112 (Kauai) 8+/All $100
Connecticut Primary $92; $120 (under 18) 8+/All $0 ($199 for 2nd offense)

States with the Least Expensive Seatbelt Tickets

Primary or Secondary Seatbelt Ticket Age/Seats Child Safety Seat Ticket
Arizona Secondary $10 8+/Front $50
Pennsylvania Secondary (primary for under 18) $10 18+/Front;


Wisconsin Primary $10 9+/All $75
Idaho Secondary $10 7+/All $84
Alaska Primary $15 16+/Front $50
Missouri Secondary $10 16+/Front $73
Georgia Primary $15 18+/Front;


Oklahoma Primary $20 13+/Front $50
Montana Secondary $20 6+/All $100
South Dakota Secondary $25 18+/Front $25

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Can You Get Out of Seatbelt Tickets?

The court may waive your fee if you dispute the ticket and provide a valid reason for not wearing a seatbelt.

Some of the more commonly accepted excuses include:
  • You were driving in reverse
  • You were in an emergency
  • You have a medical condition keeping you from using a traditional seatbelt
  • Your child unbuckled without you noticing

You may also try to show reasonable doubt. The court can overturn the ticket if you successfully argue that you were wearing a seatbelt or had taken it off for a valid reason.

Child restraint laws also offer some leniency. Many states offer the option to waive a fine if you acquire or lease a child safety seat within a specific amount of time after receiving a ticket.

Seatbelt warning sign
Image Credit: PxHere

Who Gets Ticketed for a Violation?

The typical seatbelt law entails that any adult passenger or driver over 18 or 16 years old (depending on the state) who violates a seatbelt law will receive a ticket. But in many cases, the driver may receive a fine even if they aren’t the one breaking the law.

Most states ticket the driver if a child under 18 or 16 isn’t wearing a seatbelt. These violations also bring higher costs in many places. Some states may even fine the driver and the passenger if the passenger is an adult breaking a seatbelt law.

car and road divider

Final Thoughts

No two states have similar seatbelt laws, and understanding how much a seatbelt ticket costs can become a confusing process. Rather than research the unique details of your state’s laws, try this hack to avoid getting a ticket—wear your seatbelt!

Seatbelts can reduce the chance of a fatal injury by 45 percent. A ticket is too easy to avoid, and the safety that seatbelts provide is enough reason to put one on no matter where you’re driving.

Featured Image Credit: Alexandria Gilliott, Unsplash


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