SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as 99¢ for the first month
SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as 99¢ for the first month

Buckle up: New York to mandate safety belt use in rear seats Sunday

Sarah Taddeo
New York State Team
  • New York's new law, taking effect Nov. 1, will require all vehicle passengers, including adults in the rear seat, to wear seatbelts.
  • New York will join 29 other states and the District of Columbia in implementing similar laws.
  • Unbuckled passengers in the front or rear seats can be fined $50.

New York law will require all vehicle passengers to wear seat belts starting Sunday — even if you're an adult sitting in the back seat.

Until now, state law required seat belts for all front-seat passengers and anyone 16 and younger in the rear seat. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in August to mandate seat belts for all passengers, citing safety benefits. 

The law takes effect Sunday.

New York was the first state in the U.S. to enact a mandatory seat belt law for front-seat passengers, which took effect in 1984 under the late Gov. Mario Cuomo’s administration. 

“Now we are building upon this legacy and helping to create a safer and stronger Empire State for all,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement earlier this year. 

Starting Sunday, rear seat passengers will have to wear seat belts in New York regardless of their age.

In approving the law, the governor’s office noted about 30% of highway deaths in New York are occupants unrestrained by a seat belt.

Safety experts believe that the use of backseat seat belts could prevent over two-thirds of fatalities and serious injuries caused by the crashes involving unbuckled passengers, according to the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee analysis.

There have been 289 deaths and 25,596 injuries among unbuckled rear seat passengers from 2010 to 2019, according to AAA. 

Teens and young adults ages 16 to 24 are least likely to buckle up and most likely to die compared to any other age group in the state. Rear seat occupants who fail to use seat belts are twice as likely to be killed and eight times as likely to be seriously injured, according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).        

Unbuckled front-seat passengers can be fined $50. That fine will remain the same but will be extended to rear seat passengers as well. 

New York joins 29 other states and the District of Columbia in implementing similar laws, according to AAA.  

Of those states, at least 19 have "primary" seat belt laws, meaning a law enforcement officer can pull over a driver for not wearing a restraint and doesn't have to spot a different violation first.

New York will join that list of states with its new law.

Includes reporting from USA Today Network reporter David Robinson. 

Sarah Taddeo is the consumer watchdog reporter for USA Today Network's New York State Team. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at STADDEO@Gannett.com or (585) 258-2774. Follow her on Twitter @Sjtaddeo. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Please consider becoming a digital subscriber.