Wearing a seatbelt is an excellent way to keep yourself and your fellow drivers secure. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, ‘Seatbelts dramatically reduce the risk of death and serious injury. Among drivers and front-seat passengers, seatbelts reduce the risk of death by 45%, and cut the risk of serious injury by 45%’.
A failure to wear seatbelts not only increases the risk of death or injury, but it can also lead to various legal troubles, ranging from mild to serious. Since they can vary from state to state, it is crucial to understand seatbelt laws in Illinois, and whether they can show up on your driving record.
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Illinois Law on Seatbelts
Illinois seatbelt laws come under the Illinois Vehicle Code. According to this code:
- Every passenger in the front seat must wear a seatbelt.
- Passengers aged 16 and below need to wear a seatbelt even if they are in the backseat.
- If the driver is less than 18 years old, every passenger aged 19 and below needs to wear a seatbelt, regardless of where they are sitting in the vehicle.
- Booster seats or child safety seats must be used for every passenger under 8 years old.
You might have observed that there is no blanket law regarding seatbelts. However, they are mandatory for every person aged 16 or below. Seatbelt tickets may be issued if any of the above laws are not adhered to.
Conditions Under Which Seatbelt Laws Might Not Apply
- No seatbelt is needed while the car is being driven in reverse.
- Vehicles manufactured prior to 1965 do not need to have seatbelts.
- When a person can produce a medical statement that renders him unable to wear a seatbelt due to a medical condition.
- When someone is driving at less than 15 mph, and making frequent stops (while delivering goods, for example).
- When a person is a backseat passenger in a cab.
Receiving A Seatbelt Ticket
If a police officer stops you and issues a ticket for violating a seatbelt law in Illinois, the ticket will include the date and time of the alleged offense, the nature of the charge, as well as the statute that you are allegedly violating.
The officer will ask you to sign a ticket, and your signature will be proof of your agreement to appear in the court on a set date, or, if no appearance is required, the signature will show that you have agreed to comply with the terms of the ticket.
Refusal to sign the ticket can be considered as a second offense and may open you up to another penalty. We recommend that you sign the seatbelt ticket; it is not an admission of guilt, rather an indication of your willingness to pay the required fine or appear in court.
A police officer is allowed by law to arrest you even for petty traffic offenses, although arrests are more likely for DUI or other serious traffic offenses.
What Are The Penalties for Violating Seatbelt Law in Illinois?
When you do not wear a seatbelt in Illinois, you are said to have committed a primary offense. This means that a police officer has the right to pull your car over, even if you have not committed any other offense.
Generally, for first-time offenders, the penalty for not wearing a seatbelt is $25. However, this rate varies from case to case, and will increase with subsequent seatbelt offenses. You will also have to endure any additional court expenses.
In case of violating the Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act, you will have to pay a penalty of $75. If you are a first-time offender, you can pay this fine, complete an instructional course, install the requisite child safety mechanisms in your vehicle, and apply for supervision by the court.
Subsequent violations of the CPPA will involve a $200 fine. In addition, you will also be rendered ineligible for court supervision.
Drivers aged less than 18 years and owning a graduated license will receive a warning upon their first seat belt offense. A second violation or any other moving violation within the next 24 months will lead to the driving license being suspended.
What are my rights?
- If you are charged with a traffic violation that might lead to imprisonment, you have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, the court will appoint one on your behalf, as long as you can prove your financial hardship.
- If you are charged with a violation that only requires you to pay a fine, you might still hire an attorney but, should you fail to do so, the court will not appoint one for you.
- As a defendant, you have the right to cross-question your arresting officer and other prosecution witnesses. You can also bring your own witnesses to testify for you. If your witnesses refuse to attend court voluntarily, it is also within your rights to issue them a subpoena.
- You or your lawyer can present evidence that might prove your innocence or cast reasonable doubt over the prosecutor’s allegations. You are also allowed to examine any evidence that the arresting officer submits to the court.
- The right to remain silent. If you do not want to testify, you cannot be forced to.
- The right to make an appeal. If you think that you were wrongly convicted by the court, you can appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court. The appeal should be made within 30 days after the traffic court has reached its verdict. Neither you nor the prosecution can present any new evidence during the Illinois Appellate Court Hearing.
Will A Seatbelt Ticket Go on My Record?
Not wearing a seat belt is considered a ‘petty’ offense, that is, an offense that is punishable only by a fine. As mentioned previously, committing a seatbelt offense will put you on court supervision, especially if you have a good driving record otherwise.
Upon the conclusion of the supervision period, if the court finds that you have complied with all imposed requirements, your case will be dismissed, and the conviction will not be entered into your record.
To conclude, if you think you have been wrongly accused of not wearing a seatbelt, you should contact an attorney and fill them in about the situation. Your Illinois traffic lawyer will help you assess all your options, as well as make recommendations about the best course of action regarding seatbelt tickets and other traffic violations.