Legal-Ease: Is Ohio getting stricter seatbelt laws?

In April, Gov. Mike DeWine gave his State of the State Address. In the annual address, the governor addresses the state by highlighting the goals and accomplishments of the state. Additionally, the governor often announces new initiatives. The state of the state address is held as a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly in the House Chambers of the Ohio Statehouse.

On April 10, DeWine held the most recent state of the state address, and during that address he announced and proposed a new initiative focused on Ohio’s seatbelt law.

Currently Ohio law has seatbelt enforcement as a secondary enforcement. This means if a police officer pulls someone over for another reason independent of failure to comply with the state’s seatbelt law, the police officer could ticket someone for not wearing a seat belt. However, a police officer cannot pull over drivers or passengers for non-use of a seatbelt, at least not yet.

DeWine’s proposed initiative proposed changing Ohio’s seatbelt law from being a secondary enforcement offense to a primary enforcement offense. If successful, this would mean that police officers could pull over drivers or passengers for non-use of a seatbelt.

Currently Ohio law requires that every driver and front seat passenger wear a seatbelt. Specifically, the law breaks apart the seatbelt requirements by age for other areas of the vehicle, but no matter the age the law requires drivers and passengers to be securely fastened in their seat with a seatbelt.

Ohio law further requires that every child under the age of 8 years old, no matter where in the vehicle they are riding, to be in a booster seat or child safety seat. The safety seat must be one that is federally approved and includes a wide array of seats from infant seats, convertible seats to forward-facing and rear-facing seats. Additionally, the safety seats must be child appropriate depending on the child’s height, weight and size.

Children ages 8 years old to 15 years old are required to use a seatbelt regardless of their location in the vehicle.

Some supporters of the primary enforcement seatbelt law maintain it would serve as a deterrent to riders and ultimately save lives. Others maintain it would serve as just another way for law enforcement to target and cite individuals and compare it to the more recent distracted driving law change. The distracted driving law recently changed and established cell phone use while driving as a primary enforcement offense.

Regardless of if the seatbelt law in the state gets changed from a secondary enforcement to a primary enforcement offense, the discussion on the topic could help save the lives of many Ohioans. According to DeWine, across the state there is an alarming trend of failure to use seatbelts which has and continues to result in many unnecessary deaths each year.

Nichole Y. Shafer is an Ohio-licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LTD in Putnam County. She limits her practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.