Do Backseat Passengers Have To Wear A Seatbelt in Florida?

More than just an argument between young siblings in the backseat of long road trips, and more than just a safety concern (although that is a major factor here), there is a legal issue regarding passengers wearing seatbelts. The question that some are still unclear of is this: do backseat passengers have to wear a seatbelt?

The answer: 

The seatbelt laws in Florida are straightforward. According to §316.614 drivers and front-seat passengers of a vehicle must wear a seatbelt and all backseat passengers under the age of 18 are also required to wear seatbelts.

 

Ok, problem solved right? Well, there are some aspects of this law that make it a little more grey. And it may require a car accident lawyer to unshuffled some of the finer points.

Backseat Passengers Can & Will Get Tickets

backseat seatbelt

As we’ve mentioned, in Florida, if you are over the age of 18-year-old and you are a passenger in the back of a car, you better put on your seatbelt. All passengers have to wear a seatbelt if they are over the age of 18, plain and simple.

Failure to wear seatbelts in the backseat is a secondary offense. Which is a fancy way of saying you cannot be pulled over for backseat passengers not wearing seatbelts.

A police officer will stop the car only if he or she sees that the driver or a front seat passenger was not wearing a seatbelt, which is a primary offense but cannot pull the vehicle over if they see a backseat passenger is not wearing a seatbelt which is a secondary offense.4

However, passengers have to wear a seatbelt even though the offense is considered secondary. Additionally, passengers can sue in car accidents, but if you don’t wear a seatbelt, you could be entitled to less compensation.

Child Restraints and Seatbelt Use In The Backseat in Florida

There are specific laws that govern the position of minors within a car, according to the Florida Statue.

  • §316.614(5): “It is unlawful for any person 18 years of age or older to be a passenger in the front seat of a motor vehicle or an autocycle unless such person is restrained by a safety belt when the vehicle or autocycle is in motion.” Therefore, all passengers in the car under the age of 18-years old are legally required to occupy the backseat of the car in Florida.
  • Florida law requires children age 5 and under to be secured properly in a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device.5
  • Children ages 0 to 3 must be in child restraint devices of a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child seat.
  • Children, ages 4 and 5 must be in a separate carrier, integrated child seat, or booster seat.

Are Backseat Seatbelts Safe?

First, we want to reiterate how important seatbelt use is in general. In many, if not all car accidents, lives are saved because of seatbelts. Especially in cases of serious car accidents. Legally, passengers have to wear seatbelts, that much is certain. But how safe are they?

The use of lap and shoulder belts will prevent ejection from the car during a crash. It can also prevent the passengers from colliding with the interior of the vehicle or worse, being ejected from the vehicle.

Note that even if the vehicle has already stopped or slowed down after a collision, the passengers that didn’t manage to use seatbelts are still moving at the same travel speed. Thus, they end up crashing into the front seat a few milliseconds later.

Seatbelts can help in the prevention or reduction of injuries from the second collision. That is because it can secure people to their seats, slowing down with the vehicle. So, they can ride down a crash, which makes them less likely to get injured.

New Evidence Says Backseat Seatbelts May Be Unsafe

According to one study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, seatbelts in the back usually do not have road limiters which means they cannot loosen up. So in a frontal crash, they can cause chest, abdominal or spinal injuries.1,2,3

Now researchers are talking about changing the way backseat seatbelts are designed to be safer for the wearers. But in the meantime, the law remains the same, and backseat passengers have to wear a seatbelt for the time being.

Final Thoughts

Wear your seatbelt and practice safe driving habits. For many people, a car accident is a sudden and life-changing event. For many drivers, there is no way to prepare for a car accident. Accidents are called accidents for a reason, aren’t they?

Well for personal injury attorneys, this is a way of life. You can ask any one of our attorneys, our paralegals, our team members, how seriously we take driving safety. And that’s because this is a part of our daily lives. We have seen how much a car accident can impact someone’s life.

Yes, backseat passengers have to wear a seatbelt, but we believe many should observe safe habits regardless if it’s required by law. We would see fewer injuries and fewer deaths as a result.


Sources:

  1. https://www.iihs.org/topics/seat-belts
  2. https://www.wsj.com/articles/taking-a-back-seat-is-no-longer-safer-than-riding-up-front-11562232604
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/12/business/seatbelts-back-seat-safety.html
  4. https://www.flhsmv.gov/safety-center/vehicle-safety/buckle-up-florida-its-the-law/
  5. https://www.flhsmv.gov/safety-center/child-safety/safety-belts-child-restraints/
  6. https://www.injurylawyers.com/blog/orlando-seatbelt-laws-explained/ 

 

About The Author

Michael Feiner

Michael Feiner

The Florida BarFlorida Bar Young Lawyers DivisionMillion Dollar Advocates ForumMillion Dollar Advocates ForumBest Workers Compensation Attorneys in MiamiBest Car Accident Lawyers in MiamiLawyers of distinction

Michael A. Feiner is a partner in the Fort Lauderdale office of Steinger, Greene & Feiner. Since being admitted to the Florida Bar in 2001, Michael has devoted his practice to representing plaintiffs throughout Florida in various tort and strict liability cases and has successfully litigated cases against national insurance companies, large public companies, and governmental agencies, resulting in tens of millions of dollars for his clients. He has handled all types of personal injury and wrongful death cases on behalf of plaintiffs, including automobile negligence, premises liability, medical malpractice, product liability, dog bites, and sexual harassment. Michael’s product liability case against Microsoft, as well as his representation of victims of sexual harassment and abuse by physicians, has garnered him important media attention at both the local and national levels. Michael is an experienced trial lawyer and successfully argued an appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeal. In the reported decision Ortlieb v. Butts, 849 So.2d 1165 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003), Michael persuaded the Fourth District Court of Appeal that a directed verdict on liability was appropriate where the defendant did not rebut the presumption of negligence of a rear driver in a rear-end collision.