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What New York’s New Seatbelt Law Means for Drivers and Passengers

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Buckle up, New York! As of November 1, 2020, that rule applies for all passengers, even those in the rear seat of a vehicle.

Previously, New York’s seatbelt legislation stated that passengers ages 16 and older only needed to wear a seatbelt in the front seat of the car. Now, all riders of all ages must wear a seatbelt regardless of where they sit inside a vehicle.

What’s the Law

According to the bill signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on August 11, 2020, New York’s seatbelt law requires every passenger inside a car to wear a seatbelt. This rule applies to both New York State residents and visitors, so there is no excuse for anyone not to wear a seatbelt in the state. These highlights, as outlined by the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, are important to remember for drivers and passengers:

  • In the front seat, the driver and passenger must each wear a seatbelt.
  • Every occupant inside a vehicle must have a safety restraint.
  • Passengers under age 16 must wear a seatbelt or an appropriate child safety restraint, as determined by height and weight.
  • The driver must ensure that all passengers obey the law.

Failure to obey New York’s seatbelt law can result in fines up to $50 for each violation. Drivers can be fined $25-100 and receive three penalty points to their license per citation.

Adobe Stock / thodonal

No Exceptions

As the seatbelt law makes clear, everyone must buckle up inside the car. This rule applies to all vehicles, including:

  • School buses
  • School vehicles
  • Rideshare vehicles (such as Lyft and Uber)

What’s more, pregnant individuals and those with nearly all medical problems must also wear seatbelts. The only exceptions for the seatbelt law apply to those in emergency vehicles and those with physical conditions that inhibit the proper use of a seatbelt. In the latter case, individuals must have permission not to wear a seatbelt certified in writing by a doctor and available to show on their person should the need arise.

Adobe Stock / Rawpixel.com

Wear a Seatbelt, Save a Life

It sounds like common sense, but wearing a seatbelt can save lives, and not just the lives of those wearing the belts. In a 20-year study by AAA, the organization found that 886 unbelted rear seat occupants ages 16 and up died in crashes in New York State. Younger riders accounted for the lowest use of belt usage and, not coincidentally, more than half the fatalities observed in the study.

Plus, as Albany trial attorney Elizabeth Wolff explains in the video above, unbelted individuals in the back seat are 2.5 times more likely to injure someone in the front seat of the vehicle if not strapped in safely. To prevent projectile humans and objects from flying to the front of the car, all back seat riders and bulky items should be buckled and secure.


Finkelstein & Partners, LLP is a personal injury law firm founded in Newburgh, NY over 60 years ago. The firm is dedicated to helping the victims of catastrophic injures and their families by holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions. The culture of caring and commitment to the community is evidenced by the firm’s many community programs including paid volunteer time and an anti-distracted driving program for young drivers. Learn more at lawampm.com.

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