Seat Belt Requirements for Minors
Seat belts are vitally important to the safety of minors during a car accident. Car accidents continue to be the number one cause of death for children under 18, and each year approximately 180,000 children are injured in car accidents - some catastrophically.
Children and adolescents do not fully understand the risk associated with failing to wear a seat belt, which is why the State of Tennessee puts responsibility for proper seat belt use on the driver of the vehicle. For children 9-12 years of age and taller than 4’9”, the driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring the child is properly wearing a seat belt. The statute recommends children of this age still ride in the rear seat if available. For children ages 13-15, the driver is again responsible for ensuring the child is properly wearing a seat belt but for this age group there is not a recommendation that the child be in the back seat.
It is important to note that responsibility for seat belt use is placed on the driver. It is not necessary for the driver to be the parent or guardian. Additionally, Tennessee has a primary seat belt law which means a law enforcement officer is authorized to pull over a vehicle if the officer observes an occupant not using a seat belt. Violation of this law is a Class C misdemeanor and, in addition to fines, the court may require the offender to attend an educational class designed to teach drivers about the risk of failing to properly secure children in motor vehicles. Of course, the offender must also pay for the cost of the court-mandated class.
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