(a) Except as otherwise provided by law, no person:
(1) shall operate a motor vehicle upon any public highway unless the person is restrained by a seat belt assembly and any passengers in the front seat of the motor vehicle are restrained by a seat belt assembly if between the ages of four and fifteen or are restrained pursuant to 22.0332 if under the age of four;
(2) if fifteen years of age or more shall be a passenger in the front seat of a motor vehicle being operated upon any public highway unless such person is restrained by a seat belt assembly.
As used in this section and 22.0332 "seat belt assembly" means the seat belt assembly required to be in the motor vehicle under any federal motor vehicle safety standard issued pursuant to Public Law 89-563, the Federal National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, as amended, unless original replacement seat belt assemblies are not readily available, seat belts of federally approved materials with similar protective characteristics may be used. Such replacement seat belt assemblies shall be permanently marked by the belt manufacturer indicating compliance with all applicable federal standards.
(b) The passengers of the following motor vehicles shall be exempt from the requirements of this section: an authorized emergency vehicle while on duty and a bus, including a school bus, whether publicly or privately owned, which provides service to the general public or provides special service on a regular or continuing basis. Further exemptions from this section may be established by rules adopted by the Commissioner of Public Safety pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, 4.1001 etc.
(c) No person shall be guilty of violating this section if:
(1) the person is in a motor vehicle which is not required to be equipped with a seat belt assembly under any federal motor vehicle safety standard unless the vehicle is in fact equipped with a seat belt assembly;
(2) the person not restrained by a seat belt assembly is in a vehicle in which the number of person exceeds the number of seat belt assemblies available in the vehicle or the number of seat belt assemblies originally installed in the vehicle, whichever is greater; provided that all available seat belt assemblies are being used to restrain passengers;
(3) the person not restrained by a seat belt assembly has a condition which prevents appropriate restraint by the seat belt assembly, provided such condition is duly certified by a physician who shall state the nature of the condition, as well as the reason such restraint is inappropriate;
(4) the person not restrained by a seat belt assembly is operating a taxicab and is carrying passengers in the vehicle in the course of performing taxicab services; or
(5) otherwise exempted by rules adopted by the Commissioner of Public Safety pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, 4.1001 et seq.
(d) This section shall not be deemed to change existing laws, rules, or procedures pertaining to a trial of a civil action for damages for personal injuries or death sustained in a motor vehicle accident.
(e) Penalty: A person violating this section shall be fined not more than $25 per offense.History: 1988, PL 20-79.