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Those of us who are old enough to remember the days before seat belt laws may recall public service announcements on television imploring people to wear their seat belts. Eventually, state governments in New York and elsewhere finally decided that encouraging people to do the right thing did not always lead to people doing the right thing. Now the government goes beyond encouragement: wearing a seatbelt in a moving vehicle today is no longer a matter of discretion.

Knowing that a law exists, however, does not necessarily mean that one knows its particulars. And because ignorance of the law is no defense, this post lays out some of the more important features of New York's "Occupant Restraint Law" as it applies to most drivers and passengers.

Front seat occupants:Every individual in the front row of seats must wear a seat belt. If the vehicle is an older model with a "bench" style seat, each individual passenger must wear a separate seat belt.

People 16 and older: People 16 and older in the rear seat of a vehicle being driven by a person not holding a "DJ" license or learners permit are not subject to the Occupant Restraint Law. Outside of this exception, seat belts are required for rear seat occupants.

Children under the age of 16:All vehicle occupants under the age of 16, regardless of where they are seated, must use a restraint system appropriate to a person of such age. If such an individual is young enough or small enough, a safety seat or a booster seat may be required.

Penalties for violating the law: New York police can issue citations for seat belt law violations even if you have committed no other traffic infraction. Front seat occupants 16 years old or older can all be cited; the driver can be cited for each person under 16 who is in violation of the law. Fines can range from $25-$100, and each violation can result in the imposition of three drivers license penalty points.

The best defense against being ticketed for not wearing a seat belt is for the driver to enforce a "no exceptions" policy when it comes to occupants wearing seat belts or child restraints.

Otherwise, if you have been ticketed for such a violation and believe that it is not warranted, your next best defense is to retain a law firm that understands the law and any exceptions to it.

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