H. B. 2753
(By Delegates Douglas, Staton,
Mahan, Wills and Trump)
[Introduced February 12, 1999; referred to the
Committee on Roads and Transportation then Finance.]
A BILL to amend and reenact section forty-nine, article fifteen,
chapter seventeen-c of the code of West Virginia, one
thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, relating to
requiring all occupants driving or riding in a passenger
motor vehicle to wear safety belts; and twenty-five dollar
penalty for violation.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That section forty-nine, article fifteen, chapter
seventeen-c of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine
hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read
ARTICLE 15. EQUIPMENT.
§17C-15-49. Operation of vehicles with safety belts; exception;
penalty; civil actions; educational program by
division of public safety.
(a) Effective the first day of
September July, one thousand nine hundred ninety-three two thousand, a person may not operate
a passenger vehicle on a public street or highway of this state
unless the person and any passenger in the back seat under
eighteen years of age, and any passenger in the front seat of
such passenger in the vehicle is restrained by a safety belt
meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards. For
the purposes of this section, the term "passenger vehicle" means
a motor vehicle which is designed for transporting ten passengers
or less, including the driver, except that such term does not
include a motorcycle, a trailer, or any motor vehicle which is
not required on the date of the enactment of this section under
a federal motor vehicle safety standard to be equipped with a
belt system. The provisions of this section shall apply to all
passenger vehicles manufactured after the first day of January,
one thousand nine hundred sixty-seven, and being 1968 models and
(b) The required use of safety belts as provided herein does
not apply to a duly appointed or contracted rural mail carrier of
the United States postal service who is actually making mail
deliveries or to a passenger or operator with a physically
disabling condition whose physical disability would prevent
appropriate restraint in such safety belt if the condition is
duly certified by a physician who shall state the nature of the
disability as well as the reason such restraint is inappropriate. The division of motor vehicles shall adopt rules, in accordance
with the provisions of chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, to
establish a method to certify the physical disability and to
require use of an alternative restraint system where feasible or
to waive the requirement for the use of any restraint system.
(c) Any person who violates the provisions of this section
shall be fined
not more than twenty-five dollars. No court costs
or other fees shall be assessed for a violation of this section.
Enforcement of this section shall be accomplished only as a
secondary action when a driver of a passenger vehicle has been
detained for probable cause of violating another section of this
(d) A violation of this section is not admissible as
evidence of negligence or contributory negligence or comparative
negligence in any civil action or proceeding for damages, and
shall not be admissible in mitigation of damages: Provided, That
the court may, upon motion of the defendant, conduct an in camera
hearing to determine whether an injured party's failure to wear
a safety belt was a proximate cause of the injuries complained
of. Upon such a finding by the court, the court may then, in a
jury trial, by special interrogatory to the jury, determine (1)
That the injured party failed to wear a safety belt; and (2) that
the failure to wear the safety belt constituted a failure to
mitigate damages. The trier of fact may reduce the injured party's recovery for medical damages by an amount not to exceed
five percent thereof. In the event the plaintiff stipulates to
the reduction of five percent of medical damages, the court shall
make the calculations and the issue of mitigation of damages for
failure to wear a safety belt shall not be presented to the jury.
In all cases, the actual computation of the dollar amount
reduction shall be determined by the court.
(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the
contrary, no points may be entered on any driver's record
maintained by the division of motor vehicles as a result of a
violation of this section.
(f) Commencing the first day of July, one thousand nine
hundred ninety-three, the governor's highway safety program, in
cooperation with the
division of public safety West Virginia
state police and any other state departments or agencies and with
county and municipal law-enforcement agencies, shall initiate
and conduct an educational program designed to encourage
compliance with safety belt usage laws. This program shall be
focused on the effectiveness of safety belts, the monetary
savings and the other benefits to the public from usage of safety
belts and the requirements and penalties specified in this law.
(g) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to
abrogate or alter the provisions of section forty-six of this
article relating to the mandatory use of child passenger safety devices.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to require all occupants
driving or riding in a motor vehicle to wear safety belts.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken
from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language
that would be added.