Seat belts are a very important safety feature in modern motor vehicles. In fact, according to NHTSA, in 2021, of 26,325 passengers killed in vehicle accidents, half were not wearing their seat belts. Because seatbelts are so important to the safety of drivers and passengers in motor vehicles, Arkansas has strict laws regarding seatbelt use in the state.
In general, everyone in a vehicle driving on a road of any kind in Arkansas must wear a seatbelt while the vehicle is in motion. However, there are certain expectations for older vehicles, individuals with medical reasons not to wear a seat belt, and some select vehicles with specific jobs. It is a good idea to wear a seat belt at all times when a motor vehicle is in motion to significantly increase your odds of staying safe should an accident happen.
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Seat Belt Requirements and Exceptions in Arkansas
Under Ark. Code § 27-37-702, all drivers and passengers of any motor vehicle must correctly wear a seat belt while the vehicle is in motion. This is the general rule that will apply to most people. Accordingly, the law does not go into great detail explaining what this means. It is fairly straightforward. The law requires you to wear a seat belt. That being said, this statute also lists numerous exceptions to the general rule, which we will go over below.
If an individual is driving or a passenger in a passenger vehicle that was manufactured before July 1, 1968, the seat belt requirement does not apply. In the United States, it was not federally mandated that all cars have seat belts until that date. Accordingly, cars made before that date will not always have seat belts. Many motorists choose to drive older, “classic” cars for a variety of reasons, even though they are not as safe as modern vehicles.
Moreover, people in “all other” kinds of motor vehicles besides passenger vehicles do not need to follow the seat belt laws if they were manufactured before January 1, 1972.
Arkansas law recognizes that some physical disabilities may make it very difficult, painful, or impossible to use a seat belt. Because of this, individuals who have such disabilities, along with certification of those disabilities by a physician, do not need to comply with the seat belt requirement in Arkansas.
Children below a certain age do not need to follow seat belt laws in Arkansas. However, this is only because there are stricter restrictions regarding what needs to be done for them when they are in a motor vehicle. The requirements for restraining children with safety devices in vehicles are denoted in Ark. Code. § 27-34-104.
Under that law, children under the age of 15 must be secured in a “child passenger restraint system” that is secured to the vehicle. It is important to remember that different children will grow and develop at different rates, so an appropriate safety apparatus for one child may not be a good fit for another.
For children who are less than six years old and weigh less than 60 pounds, they must be placed in a child safety apparatus. This generally refers to a federally approved car seat or booster seat. If the child is less than six years old but weighs 60 pounds or more, a seat belt can be used in lieu of a car seat or booster seat.
Rural Letter Carriers
Rural letter carriers are people who deliver mail in rural areas with low population density. These individuals are not required to wear seat belts while they are doing their job as a rural letter carrier.
People in wheelchairs are not bound by the general seat belt requirement. However, those people are required to have their chairs correctly secured to the motor vehicle they are riding in.
Seat Belt Use in Lawsuits in Arkansas
If you were in an accident and not wearing a seat belt, you may be worried that your lack of seat belt use will be used against you in court to hurt your case. Our Arkansas car accident lawyers have represented many clients who were not wearing seat belts for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, the law in Arkansas does not allow this to happen in many circumstances. Ark. Code § 27-37-703 makes it so that evidence that you were not wearing a seat belt cannot be brought up in a civil case where you are seeking damages for injuries to your person.
Like with the seat belt law, there are exceptions to this general prohibition on referencing the use, or lack thereof, of a plaintiff’s seat belt. First, evidence of not wearing a seat belt can be used to establish a link between the plaintiff’s injuries and the fact that they were not wearing a seat belt. Essentially, if the prosecution can prove that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by failure to wear a seat belt, it can be mentioned in the lawsuit.
Second, if the plaintiff is filing a product liability claim for a reason other than alleging that a seat belt failing to work properly caused their injuries, the defense can bring up the fact that the plaintiff was not wearing their seat belt as a potential alternative cause of their injuries.
Finally, the defense has the burden of proving that 1) the plaintiff did not wear their seat belt, 2) wearing a seat belt would have reduced the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries, and 3) to what extent the injuries would be reduced. What “burden of proof” means is that it is assumed that the plaintiff was wearing their seat belt until the defense proves otherwise.
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Our Arkansas car accident lawyers can help with your case when you call (479) 316-0438.