A New Seat Belt Law Might Come into Effect in 2020
It’s a battle that no one wants to face: one between trial lawyers,
car crash victims, and car insurance companies. The question is whether
a seat belt was used in a car crash. Should a jury be able to know the
victim did not wear a seat belt?
According to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Georgia is at the top of the list when it comes to drivers buckling up
with 97% in 2016 recorded as seat belt users.
The state is also one of 34 that allows police to pull over an unbuckled
driver. It is a fifteen-dollar fine if law enforcement catches you not
wearing a seat belt.
And out of 49 states, Georgia is one of 29 that bar the seat belt use as
evidence in a lawsuit.
By law, do you have to wear your seatbelt in Georgia? Yes. But, think of this:
You run a red light and t-bone another car. Clearly, you’re at fault.
The other driver, however, was not wearing his seat belt. He was ejected
from the car and died. You are stuck with killing him and can be sued
for a lot of money (much more than if he was wearing his seat belt). If
he had been wearing his seat belt, he may not have even been injured.
Currently, whether he wore his seat belt isn’t allowed into evidence
(the jury will presume he was wearing his seatbelt and will never be told
Do you think that’s fair?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section or
As a reference, the Georgia Seat Belt law can be found in O.C.G.A. 40-8-76.1
and it reads as follows:
(a) As used in this Code section, the term "passenger vehicle"
means every motor vehicle, including, but not limited to, pickup trucks,
vans, and sport utility vehicles, designed to carry 15 passengers or fewer
and used for the transportation of persons; provided, however, that such
term shall not include motorcycles; motor driven cycles; or off-road vehicles
or pickup trucks being used by an owner, driver, or occupant 18 years
of age or older in connection with agricultural pursuits that are usual
and normal to the user's farming operation; and provided, further,
that such term shall not include motor vehicles designed to carry 11 to
15 passengers which were manufactured prior to July 1, 2015, and which,
as of such date, did not have manufacturer installed seat safety belts.
(b) Each occupant of the front seat of a passenger vehicle shall, while
such passenger vehicle is being operated on a public road, street, or
highway of this state, be restrained by a seat safety belt approved under
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208.
(c) The requirement of subsection (b) of this Code section shall not apply to:
(1) A driver or passenger frequently stopping and leaving the vehicle
or delivering property from the vehicle, if the speed of the vehicle between
stops does not exceed 15 miles per hour;
(2) A driver or passenger possessing a written statement from a physician
that such person is unable, for medical or physical reasons, to wear a
seat safety belt;
(3) A driver or passenger possessing an official certificate or license
endorsement issued by the appropriate agency in another state or country
indicating that the driver is unable for medical, physical, or other valid
reasons to wear a seat safety belt;
(4) A driver operating a passenger vehicle in reverse;
(5) A passenger vehicle with a model year prior to 1965;
(6) A passenger vehicle which is not required to be equipped with seat
safety belts under federal law;
(7) A passenger vehicle operated by a rural letter carrier of the United
States Postal Service while performing duties as a rural letter carrier;
(8) A passenger vehicle from which a person is delivering newspapers; or
(9) A passenger vehicle performing an emergency service.
(d) The failure of an occupant of a motor vehicle to wear a seat safety
belt in any seat of a motor vehicle which has a seat safety belt or belts
shall not be considered evidence of negligence or causation, shall not
otherwise be considered by the finder of fact on any question of liability
of any person, corporation, or insurer, shall not be any basis for cancellation
of coverage or increase in insurance rates, and shall not be evidence
used to diminish any recovery for damages arising out of the ownership,
maintenance, occupancy, or operation of a motor vehicle.
(1) Except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of this subsection,
a person failing to comply with the requirements of subsection (b) of
this Code section shall not be guilty of any criminal act and shall not
be guilty of violating any ordinance. A violation of this Code section
shall not be a moving traffic violation for purposes of Code Section 40-5-57.
(2) A person failing to comply with the requirements of subsection (b)
of this Code section shall be guilty of the offense of failure to wear
a seat safety belt and, upon conviction thereof, may be fined not more
than $15.00; but, the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other
provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution
shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge
to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction
thereof. The court imposing such fine shall forward a record of the disposition
of the case of failure to wear a seat safety belt to the Department of
(3) Each minor eight years of age or older who is an occupant of a passenger
vehicle shall, while such passenger vehicle is being operated on a public
road, street, or highway of this state, be restrained by a seat safety
belt approved under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208. In any
case where a minor passenger eight years of age or older fails to comply
with the requirements of this paragraph, the driver of the passenger vehicle
shall be guilty of the offense of failure to secure a seat safety belt
on a minor and, upon conviction thereof, may be fined not more than $25.00.
The court imposing such a fine shall forward a record of the court disposition
of the case of failure to secure a seat safety belt on a minor to the
Department of Driver Services.
(f) Probable cause for violation of this Code section shall be based solely
upon a law enforcement officer's clear and unobstructed view of a
person not restrained as required by this Code section. Noncompliance
with the restraint requirements of this Code section shall not constitute
probable cause for violation of any other Code section.