Tennessee Seat Belt Laws and Exemptions 2020

It is widely understood that seat belts are invaluable safety features in vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that seat belts save as many as 15,000 lives each year in this country. They also stated that an additional 2,500 lives, or more, could be saved if everybody buckled up when they got behind the wheel. Here, our injury attorneys in Nashville discuss why it is vital to understand Tennessee seat belt laws, regardless of whether you live here or are just visiting.

What Tennessee laws say about seat belts

Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-9-603 states that Tennessee is a primary seat belt state. This means the drivers are required to wear their seat belts at all times when operating a motor vehicle. Drivers and front-seat passengers, as well as passengers who are under the age of 18 riding in the back seat of a car, are covered under this law. They must have their seat belt on and fastened properly at all times when the vehicle is in motion. Drivers over the age of 18 are not required to wear seat belts if they are in the back seat, though it is highly recommended that they do so.

State law requires that the seat belt be worn properly at all times. If your vehicle has a lap and shoulder belt, you are required to have both properly positioned and fastened.

Penalties for violating Tennessee seat belt laws

A violation of the seat belt laws in Tennessee is considered a Class C misdemeanor charge. A person charged with and convicted of this violation can, in lieu of a court appearance, pay a fine of $25 for a first violation and $50 for a second or subsequent violation. The fines used to be lower than this, but the law changed in 2016 to raise them to the current assessments.

It should be noted that, while law enforcement can make a stop and issue a violation solely based off of a person not wearing a seat belt, a person cannot be arrested off of a seat belt violation alone.

Are there any exceptions to TN seat belt laws?

Tennessee drivers and passengers who have a disabling condition that prevents appropriate restraint with the safety gear installed in the vehicle are exempt from having to wear their seat belt. However, this condition must be duly certified in writing by their physician, and the certification must state the nature of their disability and why the disability prevents proper restraint usage.

There are several exemptions in the law for those in certain occupations, such as mail carriers, utility workers, auto mechanics and salespeople, newspaper delivery carriers, and more.

How often do car accidents occur in Tennessee?

According to data available from the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security, there were 204,589 total car accidents reported across the state during the latest year. Out of these incidents, there were nearly 49,000 injuries and 1,064 total fatalities reported.

The reality is that most people will deal with a vehicle accident at some point in their life, and that seat belts greatly reduce the risk of drivers and passengers sustaining a serious injury in the event a collision occurs. Data available from the Tennessee government shows that thousands of unrestrained drivers were involved in accidents last year. If you have additional questions, reach out to our knowledgeable Nashville car accident attorneys. Buckle up, save a life, and live to drive another day.