TITLE 31
Motor and Other vehicles

CHAPTER 31-22
Miscellaneous Rules

SECTION 31-22-22


   § 31-22-22  Safety belt use – Child restraint. – (a) Any person transporting a child under the age of eight (8), less than fifty-seven (57) inches in height and less than eighty (80) pounds in a motor vehicle operated on the roadways, streets, or highways of this state, shall transport the child in any rear seating position of the motor vehicle properly restrained in a child restraint system approved by the United States Department of Transportation under Federal Standard 213. If the child is under eight (8) years old but at least fifty-seven (57) inches in height, or at least eighty (80) pounds the child shall be properly wearing a safety belt and/or shoulder harness approved by the Department of Transportation pursuant to Federal Standard 208 in any rear seating position of the motor vehicle. For the purpose of this section, applying to all parts of this section, "rear seating position" means any seating positions located behind the driver and front seat passenger. Under this subsection, a child must be properly restrained in the front seat if:

   (i) The vehicle is not equipped with a back seat; or

   (ii) All rear seating positions are being utilized by other children.

   (2) In no event shall failure to wear a child restraint system or safety belt be considered as contributory or comparative negligence, nor the failure to wear the child restraint system, seat belt and/or shoulder harness be admissible as evidence in the trial of any civil action.

   (b) Any operator of a motor vehicle transporting a child who has attained the age of eight (8) years but is under eighteen (18) years of age in any seating position within a motor vehicle operated on the roadways, streets, or highways of the state shall ensure that the passenger is properly wearing a safety belt and/or shoulder harness system, as defined by Federal Standard 208.

   (2) Any operator of a motor vehicle under eighteen (18) years old shall properly wear a safety belt and/or shoulder harness system.

   (3) This subsection applies only to those motor vehicles required by federal law to have safety belts.

   (c) Any person deemed in violation of subsection (a) of this section shall be issued a citation. If the cited person presents proof of purchase of a federally approved child restraint system under Standard 213 to the issuing police department within seven (7) days of issuance, the department shall void the violation. If the individual fails to present proof of purchase, he or she shall be required to appear for a hearing before the traffic tribunal, and shall be fined as provided in § 31-41.1-4 for each offense, and it shall not be recorded on the person's driving record within the rules and regulations governing chapter 41.1 of this title.

   (2) Any person violating subsection (b) of this section shall be fined as provided in § 31-41.1-4 for each offense. The conviction shall not be recorded on that person's driving record within the rules and regulations governing chapter 41.1 of this title.

   (d) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, any person transporting a child properly restrained in a federally approved child restraint system under Federal Standard 213, but transporting the child in a place other than a rear seating position, in violation of subsection (a) of this section, shall be subject only to the fine contained in subdivision (c)(2) of this section.

   (e) All fines collected for violations of this section shall be payable to the state of Rhode Island. Fifty percent (50%) of the proceeds shall be shared with the municipality whose law enforcement department issued the citation for the violations.

   (f) Any operator of a motor vehicle transporting a person eighteen (18) years of age and older in any seating position of a motor vehicle operated on the roadways, streets or highways of this state shall ensure that the person be properly wearing a safety belt and/or shoulder harness system, as defined by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208.

   (2) The provisions of this subsection shall apply only to those motor vehicles required by federal law to have safety belts.

   (g) Any person who is an operator of a motor vehicle shall be properly wearing a safety belt and/or shoulder harness system as defined by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 while the vehicle is in operation on any of the roadways, streets, or highways of this state.

   (2) The provisions of this subsection shall apply only to those motor vehicles required by federal law to have safety belts.

   (h) In no event shall failure to be properly restrained by a child restraint system or safety belt be considered as negligence, nor the failure to be properly restrained by the child restraint system or safety belt be admissible as evidence in the trial of any civil action.

   (i) The provisions of subsections (b), (f) and (g) of this section shall not apply to a driver or passenger of:

   (1) A passenger motor vehicle manufactured before July 1, 1966;

   (2) A passenger motor vehicle in which the driver or passenger possesses a written verification from a licensed physician that the driver or passenger is unable to wear a safety seat belt system for physical or medical reasons. The verification time period shall not exceed twelve (12) months at which time a new verification may be issued;

   (3) A passenger motor vehicle which is not required to be equipped with a safety seat belt system under federal laws; or (4) A passenger motor vehicle operated by a letter carrier of the United States Postal Service while performing the duties of a letter carrier.

   (j) A program of public information and education designed to educate the motoring public to the benefits of wearing safety belt systems, shall be developed by the department of transportation's governor's office on highway safety. The department of transportation's office on highway safety, in cooperation with the department of health, shall study the effectiveness of the implementation of this section and shall submit to the general assembly a report containing its findings by July 1, 1999.

   (k) Any person violating subsection (f) or (g) of this section shall be fined as provided in § 31-41.1-4. Any conviction for violating subsection (f) or (g) of this section shall not be recorded on that person's driving record within the rules and regulations governing chapter 41.1 of this title.

   (l) No motor vehicle shall be stopped, inspected or detained to determine compliance with subsection (f) or (g) of this section without reasonable suspicion that the operator or passenger(s) of the motor vehicle is in violation of this section.

   (m) A law enforcement officer may not search a motor vehicle, its contents, the driver, or a passenger solely because of a violation of subsection (f) or (g) of this section.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1980, ch. 61, § 1; P.L. 1981, ch. 18, § 1; P.L. 1987, ch. 331, § 1; P.L. 1991, ch. 303, § 1; P.L. 1992, ch. 322, § 1; P.L. 1996, ch. 143, § 1; P.L. 1997, ch. 99, § 1; P.L. 1998, ch. 36, § 1; P.L. 2000, ch. 109, § 67; P.L. 2001, ch. 132, § 1; P.L. 2002, ch. 58, § 3; P.L. 2002, ch. 121, § 1; P.L. 2004, ch. 6, § 4; P.L. 2004, ch. 346, § 1; P.L. 2008, ch. 100, art. 12, § 9; P.L. 2009, ch. 59, § 1; P.L. 2009, ch. 62, § 1; P.L. 2011, ch. 185, § 1; P.L. 2011, ch. 186, § 1.)