No, they are not, thanks to recent changes in state law. Though Maryland already has a great record for seat belt use, the state decided to up the ante one more time last fall. As of October 2013, all passengers must be buckled in every seat at all times. Previously, only children 15 and younger were required to buckle up in the backseat.
The backseat seat belt law is considered a secondary offense, meaning that an officer cannot pull over a vehicle just because he or she suspects a backseat passenger is unbelted. However, seat belt use in the front seat is a primary offense, meaning that an officer can pull over a car solely on the grounds of an unbuckled driver or front seat passenger. At that time, the officer can then issue additional tickets for any unbelted backseat passengers.
The fines for failing to follow the seat belt law are $83 (court costs included) per unbuckled person. Adults receive the tickets themselves, but a driver receives the ticket for any minors in the vehicle. In other words, a driver who is traveling with minors can be fined $83 for failing to buckle up himself and another $83 for each unbuckled minor in the vehicle.
The Maryland Highway Safety Office started a Toward Zero Deaths campaign in an ambitious attempt to reduce the number of traffic deaths to—you guessed it—zero. Seat belt use in Maryland was in the top 10 nationwide with the old seat belt laws, and state officials hope the high seat belt use will continue under the new laws, further reducing the number of traffic deaths in Rockville and throughout the state.
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