Seat Belt Laws of Tennessee

by Rocco Pendola
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The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) argues you should wear your seat belt, irrespective of circumstance. According to TDOT, 75 percent of deadly crashes happen within 25 miles of the victim's home. Most accidents resulting in injury or death occur at less than 40 mph. When it comes to kids, proper use of a child restraint system reduces a child's risk of death in a car crash by 71 and 54 percent respectively.

Safety Belt Law

Front seat occupants of forward-moving motor vehicles in Tennessee must wear a seat belt. Penalties for violation of Tennessee's seat belt law vary slightly by age. Individuals over 18 years of age and older may pay a fine of $10 for the first offense and $20 for the second and all subsequent offenses in lieu of a court appearance. Drivers who are 16 or 17 years old can pay a fine of $20 instead of appearing in court. Seat belt violations in Tennessee do not result in points on your license.

Child Safety Laws

Tennessee's child passenger restraint laws are among the nation's most specific. Most states, as of March 2010, simply provide non-binding guidance or recommend parents and caregivers consult child restraint manufacturers for information on age-appropriate applications. Tennessee law specifies the type of system you should use based on your child's age and size. Infants under 1 and less than 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing infant seat. Kids between 1 and 3 and weighing 20 pounds or more must be secured in a forward-facing infant seat. You must place children who are between 4 and 8 and less than 57 inches tall in a booster seat. If a child is between 9 and 15 or is 12 or younger and taller than 57 inches, he may use an adult seat belt. The law mandates back seat positioning, if available, for children 8 and younger and less than 57 inches tall. The back seat is recommended, though not required, for youth ages 9 to 12. Violation of Tennessee's child passenger restraint laws results in a $50 fine.


Under Tennessee law, you or your child are excluded from the seat belt and child restraint laws, respectively, if you can provide written proof from a doctor noting a medical reason why you cannot use a mandated restraint system. Tennessee excludes others from the state's seat belt law, including rural letter carriers while performing their duties with the United States Postal Service, salespersons or mechanics at auto dealerships who regularly test drive more than 50 cars in a day within one mile of their place of business, various public utility workers, including meter readers, newspaper delivery persons and those riding in vehicles used in a parade or hayride, as along as the traveling speed does not exceed 15 mph.

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