H. B. 2203
(By Delegates Smirl, Michael, Morgan and Mahan)
[Introduced January 14, 2003; referred to the
Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend and reenact sections forty-three, forty-six, and
forty-nine, article fifteen, chapter seventeen-c of the code
of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as
amended, all relating to requiring all new and used
automobiles to be equipped with safety seat belts for all
seating locations; requiring passive restraints and properly
adjusted seat belts for children, requiring that certain
children ride in the rear seat; prohibiting children from
riding in certain cargo areas; increasing certain penalties
requiring the use of safety belts while operating a motor
vehicle; making the offense of failure to wear a safety belt
a primary offense; and specifying the standards for safety
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That sections forty-three, forty-six and 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, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 15. EQUIPMENT.
§17C-15-43. Vehicles to be equipped with safety belts.
No dealer in new or used automobiles shall sell, lease,
transfer or trade, at retail, any passenger automobile which is
manufactured after the first day of January,
one, one thousand nine
hundred sixty-five, unless such the vehicle is equipped with safety
seat belts for the front seat, all seating locations which seat
belts shall meet the standards set and approved by the society of
automotive engineers, inc.
§17C-15-46. Child passenger safety device required.
(a) Every driver who transports a child under the age of nine
years in a passenger automobile, van or pickup truck other than one
operated for hire, shall, while
such the motor vehicle is in motion
and operated on a street or highway of this state, provide for the
protection of such child by properly placing, maintaining and
securing such the child in a child passenger safety device system
meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards:
Provided, That if such child is between the age of three and eight,
both inclusive, a vehicle seat belt shall be sufficient to meet the
requirements of this section(1) For children younger than the age of four years, or weighing less than forty pounds regardless of age, a child
passenger restraint system must be used.
(2) For children four years and older weighing forty pounds or
more but younger than the age of nine, a properly adjusted safety
belt may be used.
(3) All children twelve years old or younger shall be properly
secured as provided above in the rear seat of any motor vehicle
equipped with a rear seat, unless all available rear seats are in
use by other children: Provided, That the provisions of this
subdivision do not apply to vehicles manufactured before the first
day of January, one thousand nine hundred ninety.
(4) The transportation of any child under the age of sixteen
in the enclosed or open cargo area of any passenger vehicle, van,
pickup truck, or towed uncovered open bed trailer is prohibited on
any street or highway of this state and shall be a violation of
this section: Provided, That this section does not apply to any
motor vehicle operated as a part of an official or properly
authorized and controlled parade or special event, or while engaged
in farm work off the streets or highways of this state.
(b) Any person who violates any provision of this section is
guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be
fined not less than
ten dollars fifty dollars nor more than twenty
two hundred dollars. The provisions of section one-a, article
eleven-a and section three, article twelve, all of chapter sixty-two of this code do not apply to any person convicted of a
violation of this section.
(c) A violation of this section
shall may not be deemed
by virtue of such the
violation to constitute evidence
of negligence or contributory negligence or comparative negligence
in any civil action or proceeding for damages.
(d) If any provision of this section or the application
thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid,
invalidity shall may not affect other provisions or applications of
this section, and to this end the subsections of this section are
declared to be severable.
If all seat belts in a vehicle are being used at the time of
examination by a law officer and the vehicle contains more
passengers than the total number of seat belts or other safety
devices as installed in compliance with federal motor vehicle
safety standards, the driver shall not be considered as violating
§17C-15-49. Operation of vehicles with safety belts; exception;
penalty; civil actions; educational program by
division of West Virginia state police.
(a) Effective the first day of September,
one thousand nine
hundred ninety-three two thousand three, 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 in any
seating position of such the
passenger 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 the
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 newer.
(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
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 the
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
code. The provisions of section one-a, article eleven-a and
section three, article twelve, all of chapter sixty two of this
code do not apply to any person convicted of a violation 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
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 may
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
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
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to change the offense of
failure to wear safety belts to a primary offense. Court costs are
not assessed for violations. The bill requires all vehicle
occupants to wear seatbelts. The bill also prohibits children
under the age of 16 from riding an open or closed cargo area of a
passenger vehicle, van, pickup truck or uncovered open bed trailer.
The bill also specifies the use of child passenger safety device
systems meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.
This bill eliminates the provision which allows unbelted passengers
if the number of passengers in a vehicle exceeds the number of seat
belt locations. The fine for conviction for violating the child
restraint law is increased.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from
the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would