Effective July 12, 2006, Kentucky's seat belt law became a "primary" or standard enforcement law. This means that law enforcement officers can now stop a vehicle solely for an occupant restraint violation. Previously, Kentucky's law only allowed officers to cite for this violation if some other violation initiated the traffic stop.
The new law resulted from House Bill 117, passed during the Kentucky General Assembly's 2006 regular legislative session.
In summary, Kentucky's seat belt law specifies the following:
A person shall not operate a motor vehicle manufactured after 1981 on the public roadways of this state unless the driver and all passengers are wearing a properly adjusted and fastened seat belt (unless the passenger is a child of 40 inches or less in height - see additional requirement below)
If a person is unable to wear a seat belt for medical or physical reasons, they must have in their possession a written statement from a physician or licensed chiropractor.
A conviction for a seat belt violation shall not be transmitted by the court to the Transportation Cabinet for inclusion on a person's driving history record.
Any person who violates the provisions of Kentucky's seat belt law shall be fined an amount not to exceed twenty-five dollars ($25). This fine shall be subject to prepayment and shall not be subject to court costs.
Law enforcement agencies shall be prohibited from erecting roadblocks for the sole purpose of checking for seat belt use violations
Any driver of a motor vehicle, when transporting a child of forty (40) inches in height or less in a motor vehicle operated on the roadways, streets, and highways of this state, shall have the child properly secured in a child restraint system of a type meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.
Children, who are under seven years of age and between 40 and 50 inches tall, must be in a booster seat.
Adult safety belt use in the United States currently averages 82% among front seat vehicle occupants
Kentucky's safety belt usage rate averages only 67%
Kentucky has the third lowest rate of safety belt usage among all states (Mississippi and Massachusetts are lower)
Safety belt usage is lowest in the east and south central regions of the state
Usage is much lower on Kentucky's rural minor roads (about 54% usage), compared to rural interstates (about 78% usage)
Why is it so important to wear a seat belt?
Traffic-related injuries are the #1 cause of death for people ages four to thirty-four and are the top cause of unintentional injury death for all Americans.
In 2004, traffic crashes caused more than 960 deaths and 46,000 injuries in Kentucky. Two-thirds of the vehicle occupants killed were not restrained.
Wearing seat belts is proven to be effective in significantly reducing the risk of death and serious injury in vehicle crashes.
NHTSA data for 2003 shows that 73% of passenger vehicle occupants who were involved in a fatal crash and were restrained survived; of those who were not restrained, only 42% survived.
Seat belts reduce fatalities by 70-80% in light trucks and SUVs during rollover crashes because they are effective in preventing ejection.
NHTSA data for 2003 shows that 74% of vehicle occupants who were totally ejected were killed.
Airbags are designed as a supplemental restraint system to be used in conjunction with, not in place of, seat belts. Their effectiveness in a crash is greatly diminished when seat belts are not also used.
It's the law in Kentucky and in almost every other state.
Economic & Social Considerations:
Motor vehicle crashes cost society over $230 billion every year, or $820 for every person living in the U.S. (based on 2000 data analyzed by NHTSA)
Nearly 75% of that cost is paid by citizens not involved in the crashes, through taxes, insurance and other health care costs.
If Kentucky's present seat belt usage rate increased by 11%, an estimated 61 lives would be saved, 743 serious injuries prevented, and $151 million in costs would be saved each year.