How Many People Can Legally Ride in a Car?

by Andrea Hamilton
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seat belt receptacle image by Albert Lozano from

The number of passengers allowed in a vehicle is dictated by the number of seat belts available. Legally, a car with five seat belts can only hold five passengers. Failing to adhere to this standard can result in a fine.

Primary Seat Belt Laws

Though many people find that their cars do not hold enough passengers, most states are now enforcing seat belt laws with tickets and possible court appearances. This law applies to both drivers and passengers in many states, and both can be ticketed for violating this law. Thirty-one states have implemented primary seat belt laws, meaning that drivers can be pulled over and ticketed if a police officer notices that the driver (or, in 23 states, any of the passengers) is not wearing a seat belt. Fines for first-time offenders go up to $200.

Secondary Seat Belt Laws

Eighteen states have secondary seat belt laws, which means that a driver or passenger can be ticketed if they are found to not be wearing a seat belt after being pulled over for another offense. Fines in regard to secondary seat belt laws can be as much as $72.

Children as Passengers

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The laws for safety restraints surrounding children are more strict than those surrounding adults. Most states require children under 7 (or less than 60 pounds) to ride in a booster chair, though some states only require it of children younger than 5. These child safety devices (booster seats, car seats) must be belted into the car in accordance with the instructions from the manufacturer. Fines for failing to drive with a child in improper safety conditions can result in a fine up to $500.

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