The Seat Belt Laws for Conversion Vans Explained


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Converting a cargo van can be a great way to get a terrific vehicle that you can use for camping and road trips. As exciting as getting or converting a van may be, you may wonder about the safety precautions you should take to keep yourself and your family safe. Should you make sure that there is a seatbelt for every seat? 

Conversion vans must have three-point seat belts for all front-seat passengers according to current laws. Beyond that, state regulations may also require the rest of the passengers to wear their seat belts. You should double-check your state’s seat belt laws when deciding how to retrofit your van. 

If you’re ready to go out on the open road and enjoy the camping trip, you may want to stick around to learn more about seat belt laws for each state. Otherwise, you might have a lot less fun on your trip due to tickets. 


Federal Seat Belt Laws in the United States

Federal laws require all front-seat passengers to wear a seatbelt. U.S. Code § 30127 states that: 

lap and shoulder belts also must be used correctly by an occupant in a front outboard seating position to provide restraint or protection from frontal crashes as well as other types of crashes or accidents […]” 

This makes the use of seat belts compulsory for front-seat passengers only.

Judging by federal laws, you only need to worry about seat belts for the passenger seats at the very front of your conversion van. However, some states have more strict laws, so you will want to review the laws of your home state as well as those of any state you wish to travel to.


Seat Belt Laws by State

While all states require three-point seat belts for front-seat passengers, not all of them agree on whether all passengers require a seat belt while occupying a vehicle. 

Only four states fail to provide any additional requirements beyond the federal regulations. About a third of all states require all passengers to wear a seat belt, while about half of all states require children to wear seat belts in addition to front-seat passengers. 

Each state has its way of defining children for seat belt purposes, so refer to our reference table below to find out who needs to be wearing a seat belt in your state.

StateSeat Belt LawType of Enforcement
AlabamaFront-seat passengersPrimary
AlaskaAll passengersPrimary
ArizonaFront-seat passengers and children 5-15Secondary
ArkansasFront seat passengersPrimary
CaliforniaAll passengersPrimary
ColoradoAll passengersSecondary (Primary for underage passengers)
ConnecticutFront-seat passengers and children 4-16Primary
DelawareAll passengersPrimary
FloridaFront-seat passengers and children 6-17Primary
GeorgiaAll passengersPrimary
HawaiiFront-seat passengers and children 4-17Primary
IdahoAll passengersSecondary (Primary for underage passengers)
IllinoisFront-seat passengers and children 8-15Primary
IndianaFront-seat passengers and children 4-11Primary
IowaAll passengersPrimary
KansasFront-seat passengers and children 4-14Primary
KentuckyAll passengersPrimary
LouisianaFront-seat passengers and children 6-12Primary
MaineAll passengersPrimary
MarylandFront-seat passengersPrimary
MassachusettsAll passengersSecondary
MichiganFront-seat passengers and children 4-15Primary
MinnesotaFront-seat passengers and children 4-10Primary
MississippiFront-seat passengers and children 4-10Primary
MissouriFront-seat passengers and children 4-10Secondary (Primary for passengers under 17)
MontanaAll passengersSecondary
NebraskaFront-seat passengers and children 4-18Secondary
NevadaAll passengersSecondary
New HampshireAll passengersN/A
New JerseyFront-seat passengers and children 8-17Primary
New MexicoAll passengersPrimary
New YorkFront-seat passengers and children 15 and underPrimary
North CarolinaFront-seat passengers and children 15 and underPrimary
North DakotaFront-seat passengers and children 7-17Secondary
OhioFront-seat passengersSecondary
OklahomaFront-seat passengers and children 6-12Primary
OregonAll passengersPrimary
PennsylvaniaFront-seat passengers and children 8-17Secondary (Primary for underage passengers)
Rhode IslandAll passengersPrimary
South CarolinaAll passengersPrimary
South DakotaFront-seat passengers and children 18 and underSecondary (Primary for underage passengers)
TennesseeFront-seat passengers and children 16 and underPrimary
TexasFront-seat passengers and children 17 and underPrimary
UtahAll passengersPrimary
VermontAll passengersSecondary
VirginiaFront-seat passengers and children 6 and underSecondary
WashingtonAll passengersPrimary
West VirginiaFront-seat passengers and children 17 and underPrimary
WisconsinFront-seat passengers and children 4-15Primary
WyomingAll passengersSecondary

Note that, in addition to paying attention to the laws of your home state, you should also pay attention to the laws of any states you wish to drive through. If you plan on going on cross-country road trips, it might be a good idea to prepare for the states with the most strict laws.


Can I Get a Ticket if My Conversion Van Doesn’t Have Seat Belts?

All states have some sort of fine in place for people who break their seat belt laws. These can range anywhere from $10 up to $200, depending on the state and the severity of the offense. 

Another question is whether seat belt laws are considered a primary enforcement law or secondary enforcement law. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation:

  • Primary enforcement laws allow police officers to pull you over and ticket you if they notice you are not following the law.
  • Secondary enforcement laws allow police officers to ticket you for not following the law, but they are not allowed to pull you over simply for not following a secondary enforcement law. They must catch you breaking a primary enforcement law to pull you over.

Our reference table above shows which states consider seat belt laws to be primary enforcement laws and which states consider them to be secondary enforcement laws.


Safety Concerns Of Riding In a Conversion Van Without a Seat Belt

Even if your state does not require all occupants to wear a seat belt, it is probably a good idea to retrofit your conversion van with seat belts for everyone. Though laws in most states only require front-seat occupants and children of certain ages to wear seat belts, it is never a bad idea to be cautious when on the road.

Depending on the layout of your van, it might be safe for passengers to ride in the back of a conversion van without a seat belt. For example, if you have a bed in the back, that might keep your passengers safe in the event of a crash.


Conclusion

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt use saved over 320,000 lives in the United States between 1960 and 2012. Whether or not your state requires everyone to wear a seat belt, you should err on the side of caution and make sure all passengers buckle up.


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As an independent traveler, I try to share my positive and negative observations about van life as well as tips and tricks to make your life on the road easier. I travel and work in my old RV and would greatly appreciate a coffee from you if you find my content useful.

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