What are the Tennessee Seat Belt Laws?

Tennessee seat belt laws are enforced to protect the lives of drivers and passengers. Seat belts are the best protector for vehicle accidents that work alongside airbags. Airbags by themselves can be a threat to those who do not wear a seat belt. There are specific regulations for children and their seat restraints according to their size. These laws are important to know just in case you are involved in a Tennessee car accident.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration*, in 2019, 47% of 22,215 passengers involved in car accidents were killed because they did not have their seat belts on. More often than not, the NHTSA reports on airbag recalls instead of seat belts.

Children Seat Belt Law

Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-9-602

  • Children under the age of one or weighing less than 20lbs must be secured in a child passenger restraint system. It must be in a rear-facing position.
  • Children from the ages one to three weighing more than 20lbs must be secured in a child safety seat in a forward-facing position.
  • A child between the ages of 4 and 8 smaller than 4’9″ must be secured in a belt-positioning booster seat system.
  • A child between the ages of nine and twelve taller than 4’9″ must be secured in a standard seat belt system.
  • Children ages thirteen through fifteen must be secured using a passenger restraint system.

The car driver is responsible for making sure the children under 16 are restrained with the proper seat belts required for the age. If the minor’s parent is in the car as a passenger, they are responsible for their children being properly restrained. Failure to do so will lead to fines of $50 for violation of the law.

Adult Seat Belt Law

Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-9-603

  • Drivers are required to wear a seat belt at all times when operating a motor vehicle.
  • Children under the age of 18 are covered under the Tennessee Child Passenger Safety and Graduated Driver Licensing Laws.
    • All occupants in the car, no matter the seats, must be wearing a seat belt.
    • Licensed passengers that are 16 or older are responsible for themselves for wearing a seat belt. If they do not, they will be faced with paying the fines associated with violating the law.

It is part of a police officer’s protocol to pull over drivers who are not wearing seat belts or if their passengers are not wearing seat belts. If vehicles have more passengers than available seat belts, this will also result in fines and possible charges for unsafe driving.

Tennessee seat belt laws

Click it or Ticket & Border to Border Campaigns

The Click it or Ticket campaign was started to increase the usage of seat belts of all occupants of vehicles in the United States. In Tennessee, the Click it or Ticket campaign pairs with the Border to Border campaign, which is a campaign held between Tennessee Highway Safety Office and North Carolina Highway Safety Program.

The Border to Border campaign was started to reduce traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities by increasing public education. It also raises awareness for law enforcement to participate by coordinating highly visible seat belt enforcement and providing seat belt fact sheets for drivers. The kick-off for these campaigns happens in May and runs until June to bring awareness to seat belt safety. Alongside the Tenessee seat belt laws, these two seat belt awareness campaigns have saved many lives in car accidents.

Injuries From Not Wearing a Seat Belt

Firstly, death is the main consequence of not wearing a seat belt. Seat belts protect you from being thrown out of the car and suffering from severe injuries. If you don’t wear a seat belt or wear it improperly, other injuries you will sustain are whiplash, internal bleeding, collapsed lung, brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries.

As we mentioned before, airbags are meant to work with seat belts, not replace them. Without having the seat belt, the airbags will lead to severe facial injuries like a broken nose or suffering from temporary or permanent blindness. Concussions also have a high chance of happening depending on the car accident’s speed. Chest injuries like broken ribs or soft tissue damage are likely to occur without wearing a seat belt. Lastly, burns, similar to rug burns, are likely to happen due to airbag deployment speed.

Filing for a Car Accident Claim in Tennessee

In Tennessee car accidents, wearing a seat belt is the most important thing you can do to ensure your safety. If you are a victim in a car accident and are not wearing a seat belt, you might be found negligent for your injuries. Tennessee is an at-fault state, meaning that the driver found at-fault for the car accident will be legally and financially responsible for your damages and injuries.

Although this is the case in an at-fault state, the defendant might use the claim that if you were wearing a seat belt during the car accident, your injuries might have been less severe. This does not prevent you from pursuing a claim for the damages experienced but having a Tennessee car accident lawyer in your corner will help you receive total compensation.


* Source: https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/seat-belts

About the Author

Michael Feiner
Michael Feiner

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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.