Highway Safety

SD Safety Belt Use Law


Who is required to wear a safety belt in South Dakota?

Every operator and front seat passenger of a passenger vehicle operated on a public highway in this state shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety seat belt system, required to be installed in the passenger vehicle when manufactured pursuant to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 208 (49 C.F.R. 571.208) in effect January 1, 1989, at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion. The driver of the passenger vehicle shall secure or cause to be secured a properly adjusted and fastened safety seat belt system on any passenger in the front seat who is at least five years of age but younger than eighteen years of age.

What types of vehicles are considered "passenger vehicles"?

A passenger vehicle is any self-propelled vehicle intended primarily for use and operation on the public highways including passenger cars, station wagons, vans, taxicabs, emergency vehicles, motor homes, trucks, and pickups. The term does not include motorcycles, motor scooters, motor bicycles, motorized bicycles, passenger buses, and school buses. Farm tractors or implements of husbandry designed primarily or exclusively for farm operations are also not considered passenger vehicles.

Are there any exceptions to the requirement to wear safety belts?

South Dakota's law provides for several exceptions to the requirement to wear safety belts:

  • If your vehicle was manufactured before September 1, 1973;
  • If you have a written statement from your doctor describing a medical reason why you should not wear a safety belt;
  • If you are a passenger in a vehicle that was not equipped with safety belts because federal law didn't require them when it was manufactured;
  • If you are a rural mail carrier for the United States Postal Service, while delivering mail; or any person delivering periodicals or newspapers on an assigned home delivery route.

What is the fine if I'm ticketed for not wearing a safety belt?

The fine is only $25 (July 1, 2008), but the consequences of not wearing a safety belt could be even greater. If you are involved in a traffic crash while not wearing a safety belt, your odds of being injured or killed increase dramatically.

Has the passage of he safety belt law made any difference in safety belt use in South Dakota?

It has had a very positive impact on seat belt use. Prior to 1994, South Dakota had one of the lowest safety belt usage rates in the United States, with only 26% of front seat passengers choosing to buckle up. Since the passage of the safety belt law, seat belt usage has been steadily increasing. A statewide survey conducted in 1998 showed the usage rate at 43% statewide. A recent observational survey in 2007 indicated a safety belt use rate of 73%. To see how South Dakota's seatbelt compliance has evolved, see Seat Belt Surveys.

The shoulder harness on my seat belt rubs against my neck and bothers me. Is it ok for me to put the shoulder strap behind my back or under my arm to keep it out of the way?

Absolutely not! Don't do it! Besides being against the law, this is very dangerous. The safety belt law requires the safety belt system to be properly fastened and adjusted. Failure to use safety belts the way they are designed reduces their effectiveness, and could result in serious injury or death.