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Is there any defense for not wearing a seat belt in New York?

As a New York motorist, there are many different types of traffic violations you might face, but is there any criminal defense for not wearing a seat belt while driving? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that the rate of seat belt use is higher for drivers and front-seat passengers; however, there are still some drivers who choose not to wear them.

If you earn a citation for failing to wear your seat belt in New York, there are several defenses you can offer in response.


If you have a large or bulky build, you may find seat belts do not fit you properly or make you uncomfortable while driving. You may even believe that they restrict movements and lower your reaction time in case of a driving emergency. A seat belt may also cause discomfort for you on longer trips, even when riding in the backseat.

Unawareness of the law

New York State law requires seat belt usage for all passengers in a vehicle who are 16 years of age and older, and this includes those who ride in the backseat. Some drivers believe that only they and front-seat passengers require seat belts because rear passengers are safer in the event of an accident. While ignorance of the law may not excuse your citation, it may put you in a better position than willfully breaking it.

Most studies show that seat belts protect drivers and passengers in case of a crash on New York state roads and highways. Installing lap belts in older or custom vehicles or investing in a seat belt extender for increased comfort may help you avoid future citations.