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Can officers pull you over for not wearing a seat belt?

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2022 | Traffic Offenses

After decades of research, it is clear that seat belts really do save lives. According to the National Safety Council, buckling up reduces your chances of dying in a motor vehicle accident by as much as 65%. Accordingly, it is not difficult to see why virtually all states require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts.

Virginia is one of these states, of course. In fact, according to state law, everyone in the front seat must wear a seatbelt. All minors also must either be in size-appropriate car seats or wear seat belts, regardless of where they are in a vehicle. Can officers stop you for electing not to wear your seat belt, though?

Secondary enforcement

If you are an adult and have no minor passengers in your vehicle, officers might not pull over your vehicle solely because you are not wearing a seat belt. This is because law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth use a secondary enforcement approach for seat belt violations.

Pursuant to this approach, officers typically only write tickets for adult seat belt infractions when they have another reason to stop the vehicle. For example, officers might cite you for failing to buckle up after they have stopped you for speeding or running a red light.


There is an exception to the secondary enforcement scheme, though. If you are a minor or have minor passengers in your vehicle, officers are likely to use primary enforcement. That is, they can pull over your vehicle for a seat belt violation alone without having another basis for stopping you.

Ultimately, whether you receive a primary enforcement ticket or a secondary enforcement one, you might have some options for minimizing the legal and financial consequences you face.