Studies have shown that wearing seat belts greatly reduces the number of deaths and injuries caused by motor vehicle collisions. As a result, the State of California enacted the mandatory seat belt law in 1986. Through the work and dedication of law enforcement agencies and legislation, California’s seat belt compliance rate was the highest in the nation in 1997.
The Oxnard Police Department Traffic Unit is dedicated to the safety of our motorists and passengers. Consequently, traffic officers utilize the mandatory seat belt law as an injury prevention measure. In order to promote seat belt compliance, officers from the Traffic Unit practice aggressive enforcement of the mandatory seat belt law, issuing hundreds of seat belt and child car seat citations each month. However, in addition to our enforcement efforts, the Oxnard Police Department also places emphasis upon seat belt education so that the community understands the importance of properly wearing seat belts to reduce personal injury or death if involved in a collision. The Police Department conducts numerous presentations to the public at various community events, stressing the importance of seat belt usage – especially to children.
California’s Campaign to Increase Seat Belt Compliance
Launched in May 2005, the “Click It or Ticket” campaign is a joint effort between law enforcement agencies in California where local police departments enforce seat belt laws. The campaign is a three week long period of seat belt enforcement held May and June. During the three-week enforcement period, local law enforcement agencies in California, including the Oxnard Police Department, focus their efforts toward seat belt compliance by placing the greatest number of officers on the roads specifically looking for unbelted vehicle occupants. The campaign is financed by a federal grant from the Office of Traffic Safety.
New Seat Belt Laws
California law requires drivers and all passengers to use a safety restraint system while riding in a motor vehicle.
Several new occupant protection laws have been passed that will affect California drivers in 2004 and 2005:
As of January 1, 2004 the cost of a seat belt ticket more than tripled, and now runs from$78 to $89 on a first offense, depending upon the county. Legislation (AB 1625), authored by Assemblyman John Benoit, allows penalty assessments and court costs to be added on top of a base fine. In essence, what previously cost $22.50 on a first offense will now run more than three times that amount. Drivers will also face penalties if passengers are not safely buckled.
Few people think they will be involved in an accident, but it’s too late to buckle up once a crash begins.
Before you start your car, buckle your child into an infant or child seat. Taking a few minutes to fasten a safety belt can save a child. Once your child is secured, don’t neglect your own well-being. Fasten your safety belt. It’s a life-saving habit.
The following law was passed in 2003 and will take effect in 2005: Children who are required to be secured in safety seats (under 6 years old or weighing less than 60lbs) will have to ride in the rear seat of a passenger vehicle (AB 1697/Pavley). There are several exemptions, including cases where:
- There are other children in the back seat
- A restraint system cannot properly be installed
- There is no rear seat
- The rear seat is rear-facing or side-facing
Infants less than one year of age or weighing less than 20 pounds must ride in the back, no exceptions, if there is an active passenger air bag in the front seat. A first offense is punishable by a fine of $100; second offenses will cost $250 (Vehicle Code: section 27360.5).
Most Frequently Asked Questions
Question: May I legally transport more people than the number of safety belts in my vehicle?
Answer: No. Every person riding in a private passenger motor vehicle must be properly restrained in an approved safety belt system.
Question: Can two people share a safety belt?
Answer: No. Safety belts are designed for one person.
Question: May I transport passengers who are sitting in the cargo area of a pickup truck with a camper shell?
Answer: Yes, if federally approved after-market seats with safety belts have been installed.
Question: Are there exemptions for wearing safety belts?
Answer: All passengers must be protected by safety belts. There are some narrow exceptions, including persons with health problems who carry a current letter from a physician or chiropractor.
Question: How can I make my safety belt more comfortable?
Answer: If the safety belt is too tight or rubs your neck, ask your local car dealer to adjust it. You can also place a soft cloth or piece of sheepskin on the belt where it touches your neck.
Pregnant women should wear the belt under their stomach.
Large people should contact their automobile dealer or manufacturer to purchase a safety belt extender.
Question: Can a person be cited for detaching the shoulder strap or putting it under his/her arm?
Answer: Yes. It’s illegal for a motorist to disable a shoulder strap if it is part of the vehicle’s manufactured safety system.
Question: Is it safe to transport a child in a vehicle which has side-impact air bags in the rear seat?
Answer: A side-impact air bag inflates only a few inches toward the passenger. In a crash, it can prevent serious head or chest injury. It should not harm a child properly buckled up in a car seat or seat belt. However, it might injure someone leaning against the door. If your car has side-impact air bags, make sure no one leans against the door and refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for recommendations that apply to your vehicle regarding children and side-impact air bags.
Question: I lost my car seat instructions. How do I replace them?
Answer: Call or write the manufacturer and ask for a new set of free instructions.
Question: Where can I get my child’s car seat or other restraint inspected to make sure it’s being used properly?
Answer: There are many nationally certified child passenger safety technicians throughout California. Check with your local law enforcement office or local health department to find a technician or “fitting station” near you. You can also log on to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website to find a fitting station.
Question: Where can I report a safety-related defect in my car or my child’s car seat?
Answer: Call the United States Department of Transportation’s Auto Safety Hotline at (888) DASH-2-DOT or visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website.
Four Steps for Child Car Seat
Step One: Rear Facing Seats
- Newborns and infants up to 20-35 pounds.
- Babies must ride rear facing until one year of age AND at least 20 pounds.
- Seat can never be forward facing.
Step Two: Forward Facing Seats
- Children over one year of age AND at least 20 pounds.
- Face forward only.
- Most can be converted to a belt positioning booster after child reaches 40 pounds.
Step Three: Booster Seats
- For children over 40 pounds.
- Must be used with lap and shoulder belts.
- Lap belt fits low and tight across hips.
- Shoulder belt crosses the collar bone and center of chest.
Step Four: Seat Belt
- Age 6 or older or over 60 pounds.
- Must be in the back seat unless exempt.
- NHTSA recommends all children 12 and under should be in the back seat.
Crashes are not Accidents
Facts & Figures
- California’s seat belt use is 92%-national average is 80%.
- California’s teen seat belt use rate is 82.6%.
- Approximately 3 million vehicle occupants remain unbelted in California.
- Many part-time users and non-users feargetting a ticket with a fine more than they fear being injured or killed due to being unbelted in a crash. NHTSA
- Seat belts reduce a person’s chances of dying in a crash by 50%. NHTSA
- In 2003, only 56% of all vehicle occupants killed in crashes were belted. CHPSWITRS
- Of the 1,268 vehicle occupants killed in California that were not wearing seat belts, half or 634 people would be alive today had they simply bucked up (2003).
- The average inpatient costs for crash victims who were not wearing seat belts were 55% higher than for those who were belted. NHTSA
- Society annually pays an estimated $26 billion for motor vehicle injuries and deaths experienced by unbelted vehicle occupants. Eighty-five percent of lost productivity, taxes, insurance premiums and other costs of crashes are paid by society, not the individuals in the crash. NHTSA
- When used properly, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injuries to front seat passengers by 44%.