Seatbelt Usage in Tennessee
A seatbelt law first became effective in Tennessee in April of 1986. However, it was not until July 2004 that it became a primary enforcement state. This means that a police officer can stop someone just for not wearing a seatbelt even if they have no other reason.
The law regarding seatbelt wear is applicable to anyone 16 years old and up who is seated in the front seat. Violation of the law may result in a fine up to $30 for a first offense. Anyone who is eight years old or under must be kept in a rear seat if it is available.
The state also has a child safety seat law. For children who are one year old or less must be seated in a rear-facing child safety seat. For children who are one year old but not yet four years old, they must be placed in a front-facing restraint seat. Those who are four years old up through eight years old must be seated in a booster seat. A fine of up to $50 may be imposed for a first offense for child safety seats.
Tennessee has a seatbelt usage rate of 84 percent as of 2012. This is slightly lower than the national average of 86 percent. The state also has a slightly higher traffic fatality rate at 14.5, which compares to 10.9 for the US average in 2015.
The good news is that Tennessee’s rate is improving. In 2007, it was 80.2 percent, which has continued to increase. The highest point was in 2014 at 87.7 percent.
The state is part of the South region, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The South is second for seatbelt use at 89.2 percent. This rate is just behind first-place West, which had 95.0 percent.