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New York Governor Andrew Coumo has signed legislation that will require all motor vehicle passengers over the age of 16 to wear seat belts—including anyone in a seat behind the driver and front passenger. The law will go into effect November 1, 2020. 

A (New) New York Seatbelt Law

Governor Cuomo’s new seatbelt law 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. 

In 1984, then-Governor Mario Cuomo signed legislation that made New York the first state in the US to implement a mandatory seatbelt law. However, this law only required the driver and front passenger in a motor vehicle to wear a seatbelt. It did not require any backseat passengers to wear a seatbelt.

The new statewide legislation (S.4336/A.6163, or Buckle Up New York, Click It Or Ticket) passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo will now require all passengers—including backseat passengers older than 16—to wear seatbelts as well. 

All backseat passengers in a taxi (or any vehicle hired through a driving service such as Uber or Lyft) aged 16 or older will also be required to be restrained by a seatbelt. All front seat passengers in a taxi or livery aged eight or older must also wear a seatbelt.

Why Now?

According to a recent statement from Governor Cuomo, the move to pass this life-saving law has been a long time coming: 

“We’ve known for decades that seat belts save lives, and with this measure we are further strengthening our laws and helping to prevent needless tragedies. It was under my father’s leadership that New York became the first state in the country to pass a seat belt law, and the nation followed his lead. Now we are building upon this legacy and helping to create a safer and stronger Empire State for all.”

Seatbelt Safety Statistics in New York

According to the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee

  • When the first seatbelt law was passed in 1984, seatbelt use jumped to 16 percent in one year, and continued to increase over time
  • As of 2018, 93 percent of occupants report using a seatbelt in New York: an historical high for the state
  • Despite the increase in usage, approximately 37 percent of all highway deaths in New York each year involve occupants that do not wear seatbelts. 
  • Safety experts estimate that over two-thirds of these fatalities can be prevented with the new mandate—as well as serious injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents.

NY Penalties for Not Wearing a Seatbelt in the Backseat

  • For unrestrained passengers younger than 16: It is the driver’s responsibility to make sure that every passenger younger than 16 is wearing a seatbelt. A driver can be charged between $20-$100 for each seatbelt violation and may receive up to three license penalty points.
  • For unrestrained passengers older than 16: Drivers or any passengers who fail to buckle up, and over the age of 16 can receive fines up to $50 dollars, and may have penalty points added to their license.