Governor's Traffic Safety Committee

Seat Belts & Air Bags

Introduction | Programs & Solutions | FAQs | Safety Tips
Related Sites & Sources | Vehicle & Traffic Law | Brochures & Publications | Audio & Video
Child Passenger Safety Information for Parents & Caregivers

Buckle Up New York 20th Anniversary


In 1984, New York State became the first state to enact a mandatory seat belt law, the law became effective in 1985.  New York's seat belt law is a "primary enforcement law".  This means that a police officer may stop you for not having a seat belt on.

Air bags have been proven to save lives and prevent serious injuries and should be used in combination with seat belts.

Programs & Solutions

New York State's Seat Belt Enforcement Initiative

Increasing seat belt and child safety seat use is the most effective way to reduce crash-related injuries and fatalities.  Buckle Up New York, Click It... Or Ticket, is a statewide, zero-tolerance enforcement effort coordinated by the State Police, local agencies, sheriff's offices and the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee to increase safety restraint use in New York State.

Buckle Up, New York — Click It or Ticket

Buckle Up New York, Day and Night
Stuck With a Ticket
at YouTube




The Law

Who must wear safety restraints?

Safety Restraint Checkpoint

Safety Belts are NOT an option

They are a way of life AND they are the law!

Thank you for Buckling Up!


Read more about the Buckle Up New York Campaign at the NYS Troopers website, New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc., or New York State Sheriff's Association.

Frequently Asked Questions

Seat Belts | Air Bags

Seat Belts

What is the law regarding seat belt use?

Seat belts must be worn, as follows:

Are any motor vehicles exempt from the seat belt law?

Yes, the following types of vehicles are exempt from the seat belt law:

Can I be stopped by a police officer because I am not wearing a seat belt, even if I am obeying all other rules of the road?

Yes. New York State's seat belt law is a "primary" law, which means that a police officer can stop you simply because you are not wearing your seat belt.

Can I be fined for not wearing my seat belt?

Yes. Front seat passengers sixteen and older can be fined up to $50.

What if I am driving and my passengers are not buckled up?

Drivers can be fined up to $100 for each passenger under the age of sixteen who is not properly restrained in their vehicles.  The driver will also receive three violation points on his or her driver record.

Are children required to wear seat belts on school buses?

School buses manufactured after 1987 must be equipped with seat belts, although New York State law does not currently require their use. However, a mandatory use policy may be in effect within your locality. To find out, ask your local school board.  By state law, children under four years old must be secured in a child safety seat on a school bus.

Where can I get help for questions regarding seat belt fitting problems?

You can call the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration's Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236.

Air Bags

If I have driver-side and passenger-side air bags in my car, do I still have to wear my seat belt?

Yes. Your car's air bags were designed to be a supplemental restraint system. That is, they offer additional protection in the event of a crash. But air bags are not a substitute for seat belts. Rather, wearing a seat belt along with the added protection of an air bag can be highly effective in saving your life in an automobile crash.

Can children ride in the front seat when there is a passenger-side air bag?

Infants in rear-facing car seats should never be placed in the front seat of a car with a passenger-side air bag. While air bags provide effective protection for adult passengers, the great forces produced by an inflating air bag can injure or even kill a child. In fact, the safest place for children of all ages to ride is in the rear seat of the vehicle. If there is no other option, children in forward-facing child seats can ride in the front seat, but the passenger seat should be placed as far back from the dashboard (and air bag) as possible.

Safety Tips

Safety belts are designed to distribute forces in a crash so they are absorbed by the strongest areas of your body. Seat belts keep you in place so you are less likely to strike the vehicle's interior, and they prevent you and other occupants from being thrown into each other or ejected from the vehicle.

There is a Correct Way to Wear a Safety Belt

When you buckle up, adjust your belt so it is positioned correctly.

The lap belt or lap portion of the lap/shoulder belt combination should be adjusted so it is snug and low across the hips and pelvis - never across the stomach.

The shoulder belt should cross the chest and collarbone and be snug. The belt should never cross the front of the neck or face. Do not add excessive slack (more than one inch) into the shoulder belt. If you have an automatic shoulder belt, the lap belt must be buckled manually.  New York State law now requires vehicle occupants who are required to wear seat belts to wear both the lap belt and shoulder harness.

Some vehicles have shoulder belt adjusters that allow you to move the shoulder belt's upper anchorage. This feature makes it easier to adjust the shoulder belt so that it does not touch the neck.

Small adjustments in either the belt position or in your position on the seat can improve your comfort and make the belt work better in a crash.


There are Incorrect Ways to Wear Seat Belts


Vehicles with Air Bags

If your vehicle has an air bag, it also has a safety belt system.  Air bags were designed to provide supplemental protection in front end collisions, but offer little or no protection in other types of crashes.  For maximum safety, lap and shoulder belts should be used together with air bags.

Be sure that your seating position allows at least twelve inches of space between you and the air bag compartment, since the air bag needs approximately eleven inches to deploy.  The following list provides air bag safety tips:

The Right Way to Sit

For the best protection, have the seat back upright and sit back in the seat.  If you have the seat back in a reclined position or if you are slouched in your seat, your safety belts cannot work properly:

Restraint Systems and Children

Lap and shoulder belts do not provide adequate protection for infants and small children. They need the protection of a child safety seat designed for their body size.  For more information, see our Child Passenger Safety Information for Parents & Caregivers page.

Air bags and children do not mix.

Buckle all children up whether they use child safety seats, a child restraint system, or the vehicle's seat belts.

Children age 12 and under should ride in the safest place in the car - the back seat.

Safety Belts and Pregnancy

Pregnant women should use safety belts.

Buckle Up in the Back Seat

Under Federal Law:

Most vehicles manufactured before 1989 do not have combination lap and shoulder belts in the back seat.  Retro-fit kits may be available for consumers who want them. To find out if a retrofit kit is available for your model vehicle, contact your dealer.

Lap Belts

If your vehicle only has a lap belt in the back seat, wear it. Lap belts are proven safety devices. The belt will keep you in your seat and inside the vehicle during a crash. Remember to wear the belt low and tight on your hips and not over your stomach.


It is recommended that all passengers, in all seating positions, use safety belts.  New York State's seat belt law has increased seat belt and child safety seat use, and is responsible for saving lives and reducing the severity of injuries.  Buckle Up and take advantage of the best available protection in the event of a crash.

See the brochure New York State's Seat Belt Law.

Visit the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) web site for information about: