Seatbelt Usage in Rhode Island
Rhode Island was one of the later states to create a seatbelt law. It was first enacted in June 1991, but it did not become a primary enforcement state until June 2011. What this means is that a law enforcement officer can stop someone just because they are not wearing a seatbelt. They do not need any other reason for the traffic stop.
The seatbelt law is applicable for everyone age 18 years old and up in all seats. Violations of this law could result in a maximum fine of $40 for a first offense. The state also has a child safety seat law, which requires children two years old and younger to be placed in a rear-facing seat. Children seven years old and younger must be kept in a traditional child restraint seat. Anyone violating this law may be subject to a fine of $85. Anyone seven years old and younger must remain in a rear seat if one is available.
Rhode Island has been well below the national average for seatbelt usage. In 2012, it showed a rate of 78 percent compared to the US average of 86 percent. The state has actually been improving over the past few years. In 2007, it showed a rate of 79.1 percent before dropping down to 72.0 percent one year later. It has been steadily climbing since then with the high point coming in 2014 at 87.4 percent.
The state is part of the Northeast region, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The northeast region comes in with 88.1 percent for seatbelt use as a whole, which puts this area in third place out of four. It is almost seven points behind the West at 95.0 percent, which is in first place.