Seatbelt Usage

Restraints Save Lives and Kentucky Requires Their Use

Adult passengers are required to use seatbelts, but failure to wear them does not support allegations of comparative negligence

In 1966, the federal government was authorized by Congress to establish standards and regulations for motor vehicle and highway safety. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards promulgated two years later required that all American cars and imports be equipped with a number of safety devices, including seatbelts. But, it was not until 1986 that Kentucky made passenger seatbelt use mandatory. Restraining devices like seatbelts prevent passengers from being ejected from a car during a collision or rollover. Still, in 2008, there were 25,351 passenger fatalities nationally, and fifty-five percent of the vehicles’ occupants were unrestrained.

If you are uncertain of how restraint regulations impact your personal injury case, contact an experienced Kentucky auto accident attorney at Crandall & Pera Law. Our team of Lexington and Louisville litigators pursues the maximum possible reward for your case and boasts decades of collective experience in auto accident cases.

Kentucky’s seatbelt regulations and exceptions

Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 189.125 concerning the use of seat belts, child restraint systems, and child booster seats specifically requires that:

  • No one may operate a motor vehicle manufactured after 1981 on public roadways unless the driver and all passengers are wearing properly adjusted and fastened seat belts, except as required for children.
  • No one may sell any new motor vehicle or make application for registering a new motor vehicle unless the front seats have adequate anchors, to which seat belts may be secured.
  • Any driver transporting a child of 40 inches in height or less must have the child properly secured in a child restraint system that meets federal safety standards.
  • Any driver transporting a child under the age of six years, who is between 40 and 57 inches in height, must have the child properly secured in a child booster seat.

Excluded from the requirement are persons who have written statements from physicians or licensed chiropractors attesting that they are unable, for medical or physical reasons, to wear a seat belt, as well as employees of the United States Postal Service, while engaged in the performance of their duties.

Are there problems with this law?

There are apparent contradictions between the law as written and the law as applied. For example, Kentucky is a primary enforcement state. This means that police officers can pull over moving vehicles if they observe drivers or passengers unsecured by seatbelts. However, in Section 189.990 (24), a penalty is imposed only for violations of the requirement that small children be secured in approved car seats. While the law speaks of seatbelt violations, there are no penalties attached to violations other than this. The $50 fine it imposes is not subject to court costs, and records of a conviction may not be forwarded to the Transportation Cabinet for recording in the driver’s record.

Finally, subparagraph (5) of the very statute that requires seatbelts also states: “Failure to use a child passenger restraint system or a child booster seat shall not be considered as contributory negligence, nor shall such failure to use a passenger restraint system or booster seat be admissible as evidence in the trial of any civil action. Failure of any person to wear a seat belt shall not constitute negligence per se.”

Despite Kentucky’s “comparative negligence” rule, a driver who causes an accident may not argue that the victims were partly responsible for their injuries because they neglected to secure themselves. Failure to wear a seatbelt does not necessarily exclude you from recovery for injuries, although no fault insurers sometimes attempt to deny or limit claims in which the injured failed to wear a seatbelt.

Can one of Crandall & Pera Law’s Kentucky auto accident attorneys help you?

In a tort case, a Kentucky auto accident attorney can help by working toward either a verdict through litigation or a negotiated settlement, as circumstances warrant. A Crandall & Pera Law attorney can also deal with insurance carriers who refuse, limit, or delay payment of benefits. Speak about your situation with one of Crandall & Pera Law’s traffic violations specialists. Please call us at 877-686-8879 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Kentucky auto accident lawyer. We have offices conveniently located in Lexington and Louisville.

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