Studies show that safety awareness is increasing, with a record 92% of New Yorkers regularly wearing seat belts, but that still leaves approximately 8% of the population at risk for a seat belt ticket.
What are police looking for when they issue seatbelt or child seat citations? We asked Trooper Travis about his experiences with seat belt and child seat tickets. Knowing an officer\’s perspective can help you avoid a safety violation.
What are the tell-tale signs that someone is violating the seat belt law?
Travis: I would pull a driver over for a seat belt offense if I observed the belt buckle above their left shoulder. Many people think that if they have their seatbelt on but have the strap tucked behind their back or arm they are still in compliance with the law, but that is not true. For adult passengers and drivers, the officer is looking for the seatbelt strap to be over your shoulder and across the center of your chest. Often, I will pull someone over for not wearing a seatbelt and as I am walking up to their car they will quickly put the seat belt on and argue that it was on the entire time. That is why I like to make sure I do not see the belt across the left shoulder before I pull someone over.
In your experience, would you pull over drivers solely for a violation of the child seat laws, or are you pulling them over for another reason and then issuing them a seat belt ticket?
Travis: New York is a primary enforcement state, meaning not wearing a seat belt is enough cause for a driver to be pulled over and ticketed. However, in my experience cars will not usually get pulled over for kids who appear to be at least sitting in a child or booster seat. If I see the child is jumping up and down, bouncing around the vehicle, looking through the back window, etc, that is a clear sign that there is a child seat violation and that driver will definitely get pulled over.
How do police detect whether or not a child is properly harnessed in a child seat?
Travis: There is no surefire way to know whether a child is properly harnessed in accordance with every safety regulation. Oftentimes, the way police detect whether there has been a child seat violation is after an accident. If the child seat is located somewhere in the vehicle where it clearly should not be, such as lodged under the front seat, this indicates that the seat was thrown from the car because it was not strapped in properly. If you fail to properly secure your child in car seat, 3 points can be added onto your license, in addition to the fines imposed, but the most important reason to secure car seats properly is to prevent harmful injuries to kids.