Following the West Virginia seat belt law is crucial not only for your well-being in the event of an accident, but protecting your legal rights as well. Wearing a seat belt is one of the safest choices you can make while driving or riding in a vehicle.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017 alone (the most recent year of data). Wearing seat belts could have saved an additional 2,549 lives if everyone wore them.
The good news is that the national use rate for seat belts was 90.4% in 2021. This means that most people in the United States consistently wear seat belts while driving and riding in passenger vehicles. Unfortunately, West Virginia lags behind the nation in this key statistic.
According to the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program’s Annual Report for 2021, seat belt use among the occupants of motor vehicles in West Virginia was 88.12%. Of the state’s 267 traffic fatalities in 2021, 84 (31%) were not using a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Obeying the West Virginia seat belt law can save your life. It can also protect your right to maximum compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident in West Virginia.
For a FREE case review, call Colombo Law at (304) 599-4229 today. Our car accident lawyers serve clients in Morgantown and throughout West Virginia.
What Is the West Virginia Seat Belt Law?
In West Virginia, drivers, front-seat passengers over the age of 8, and back-seat passengers under the age of 18 are required to wear seat belts. These rules apply whenever a passenger vehicle that is designed for transporting 15 passengers or fewer is in operation on any public street or highway.
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, including for some on-duty mail carriers and individuals with physical disabilities that prevent them from wearing seat belts.
For child passengers under the age of 8, there is a separate law dictating safety device requirements. Instead of a seat belt, they must be transported in a safety seat that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards. The West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles maintains a guide for the types of safety seats parents are required to use for their children.
Can You Get Pulled Over for Not Wearing a Seat Belt?
Yes, you can get pulled over and ticketed in West Virginia for not wearing a seat belt. This is what is referred to as a primary seat belt law. Some states have secondary seat belt laws, which means that a driver can only be ticketed for a seat belt violation if he or she is pulled over for another traffic offense (e.g., speeding or running a red light).
The majority of states today have primary seat belt laws like West Virginia, and for good reason. According to the CDC, “Seat belt use is consistently higher in states with primary enforcement seat belt laws than in states with secondary enforcement seat belt laws.” Primary seat belt laws have also been shown to prevent more deaths than secondary seat belt laws.
Can the Driver Get a Ticket If the Passenger Is Not Wearing a Seat Belt?
Yes, it is a driver’s responsibility to ensure that passengers who are required to wear seat belts are properly restrained. In other words, if a front-seat passenger or back-seat passenger under the age of 18 is not wearing a seat belt, the driver could be pulled over and fined for the violation.
What Does a Seat Belt Violation Cost?
The fine for violating the seat belt law is $25. Points are not assessed, meaning it will not be entered into a driver’s record.
Violating the child passenger safety requirements carries a lower fine (between $10 and $20). However, failure to secure a child in a safety seat is a misdemeanor under West Virginia law.
Why You Should Wear a Seat Belt
The consequences of not wearing a seat belt may seem insignificant – a $25 ticket and no points assessed on your driving record. However, the cost of not wearing a seat belt is immense when you consider the potential for serious injury in a crash.
Injuries that may occur in a car accident when occupants fail to wear a seat belt include:
- Head and brain injuries
- Severe whiplash
- Broken bones
- Chest and abdominal injuries
- Ejection from the vehicle
Not wearing a seat belt also has legal ramifications in the event of an accident. West Virginia uses a comparative fault standard in personal injury claims.
What Not Wearing a Seat Belt Could Mean for Your Car Accident Claim
Failure to wear a seat belt when one is legally required to do so is viewed as a form of negligence under West Virginia law. Although another driver might cause the accident in which you suffer injuries, not wearing a seat belt will generally be viewed as a contributing factor to the seriousness of your injuries.
Under West Virginia’s modified comparative fault standard, the compensation you may be entitled to is reduced according to the percentage of responsibility assigned to you. This can have a significant impact on your ability to pay for medical bills, fix or replace your vehicle, and cover the cost of other damages associated with the accident.
Speak to an Accident Lawyer Today
It is in your best interest to abide by the West Virginia seat belt law any time you are behind the wheel or riding in a motor vehicle. Unrestrained occupants not only face the risk of devastating injury, but they could face major challenges securing fair compensation for their losses.
Accident cases that involve comparative fault can quickly become complicated. At Colombo Law, we are here to provide injured people in West Virginia with the guidance, support, and representation they need and deserve during these difficult times. We have significant experience representing accident victims, and we are here to help you navigate your claim to recover the compensation you need and deserve.