Seat belts save lives. Study after study from various safety agencies has proven this. However, there are no uniform seat belt laws across the United States. Each state is allowed to set its own rules when it comes to how they handle enforcement of seat belt usage. Here, we want to discuss whether or not you are required to wear a seat belt in Montana.

Hint – the answer is yes. However, we need to look at how this law is enforced.

What the Montana Seat Belt Law Says

When we examine MCA 61-13-1, we can see that every occupant inside of a vehicle in Montana is required to wear a seat belt. Additionally, subsequent laws require that a child safety restraint system be used for any child under the age of 6 and that weighs less than 60 pounds.

There are a few exemptions to this seat belt law. This includes drivers with certain medical conditions that render them unable to use a seat belt. However, drivers must have a written statement in their possession from a medical doctor stating why they cannot wear a seat belt.

Can You Get Pulled Over For Not Wearing a Seat belt in Montana?

States typically handle enforcement of seat belt laws in one of two ways – primary enforcement or secondary enforcement.

  • Primary enforcement allows law enforcement officers to pull over drivers and give them tickets for not wearing their seat belts even if there are no other traffic violations.
  • Secondary enforcement means that law enforcement officers can only write seat belt violations if they have stopped a driver for another violation and then see the seat belt violation.

Montana is a secondary enforcement state, meaning that law enforcement officials can only write seat belt tickets if the driver has been stopped for another traffic violation.

What are the Penalties & Dangers Associated With Not Wearing a Seatbelt?

There are various penalties and injury dangers associated with not wearing a seat belt in Montana. First, the failure to wear a seat belt in Montana will result in the driver having to pay a $20 fine. This penalty will not be counted as a misdemeanor, and it cannot be counted as a moving violation when it comes to the process of suspending a person’s driver’s license.

According to data available from the Montana Highway Patrol, there were 1,303 seat belt citations issued across the state by the department during the latest reporting year. This is a significant drop in the number of citations issued when examining 2019, where there were 3,194 seat belt citations issued.

However, the good news is that Montana’s current seat belt usage hovers around 87%. Experts do say that seat belt usage would increase if Montana had a primary seat belt law, as states that do use primary enforcement see their seat belt usage increase by approximately 12%.

Even though the fines for non-seat belt usage may seem fairly paltry when it comes to deterring a person from reckless behavior in Montana, the reality is that using a seat belt is just common sense. Seat belts minimize the effects of vehicle crashes on the human body. Not only will a seat belt help a person sustain fewer injuries with the initial collision with another vehicle or object, but it can also prevent the body from striking a hard surface as a secondary impact after an initial collision occurs.