Seat Belt Law

LFDA Editor

New Hampshire is the only state that does not require adults to wear a seat belt. Under current law, only children under 18 have to buckle up in New Hampshire.

In 2009, the House passed HB 383, which called for a "primary" safety belt enforcement law. Under this law, if a police officer observes any adult driving without a seat belt on, he or she must issue that motorist a citation: $50 for the first offense and $100 for a second or subsequent offense.

The bill applied to all vehicles except large school buses, cars manufactured before 1968 and vehicles that make frequent stops for business purposes.  

According to the Associated Press, "New Hampshire would be eligible to receive $3.7 million in federal grants if it enacts a primary seat-belt enforcement law."  However, opponents argued that a seat-belt law would infringe on individual liberty.

HB 383 failed to pass in the Senate. There has been no subsequent effort to institute an adult seat belt use law in the Granite State. 

According to Transportation Department statistics, NH had the second lowest rate of motorists who used seat belts (70.4%) in 2014. The national average is 87%.

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By LFDA Editor
  • In 2009, proponents for HB 383 becoming law were looking forward to $3.7 million in 2010 from federal grants New Hampshire would have received for mandating a primary seat belt law.
  • According to a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration report from March 2008, the first year of a seat belt law could save the state $400,000, residents $1.2 million, and insurance companies about $5.1 million, due to the decrease in injuries in car crashes.
  • A NHTSA survey estimates that 68.9% of New Hampshire drivers wear seat belts compared to the national average of 84%. A primary law could make this percentage go up, potentially reducing injuries.

"Against" Position

By LFDA Editor
  • Responsible adults already wear seat belts and do not need a law that contradicts the freedoms embodied in New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" motto.
  • Some people believe that since a primary seat belt law would allow police to pull people over for not wearing a seat belt if even no other infraction has been committed, it would constitute an infringement upon citizen's Fourth Amendment rights of illegal search and seizure.
  • There was nothing in previously proposed seat belt laws to protect residents from roadblocks to check for seat belt compliance. The proposed law also did not allow a driver to temporarily unbuckle in the case of an emergency.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Passed House

Establishes a committee to study seat belts on school buses.

Passed House

Establishes a committee to study helmet and restraint laws for youth operators and passengers of OHRVs and snowmobiles.

Tabled in the Senate

Requires seat belt usage.

Should NH require seat belts?

FOR
REPRESENTATIVES

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AGAINST
REPRESENTATIVES

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Issue Status

While it looks likely that adults in their own vehicles will remain free to choose whether or not to wear a seat belt in New Hampshire for now, a move to study whether passengers in school buses should be required to wear seat belts (HB 196) passed the House and proceeds to the Senate. 

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