Can I wear my seat belt tucked under my arm in California? Here are the rules

Car seat belts might not be the most comfortable, but they can keep you safe when driving around California.

A reader asked The Sacramento Bee: “Is it legal to wear your seat belt tucked under your arm (and buckled across your lap and chest) to keep from chafing your neck?”

Here’s what to know:

What does California law say about seat belt use?

California Vehicle Code 27315 states that seat belts are mandatory for drivers and others.

“A person shall not operate a motor vehicle on a highway unless that person and all passengers 16 years of age or over are properly restrained by a safety belt,” according to the code.

Depending on their height and weight, children under 8 years old must be restrained in a car seat or a booster seat, California-based law office Easton & Easton said on its website.

Kids ages 8 to 16 are “typically required” to wear seat belts, the law firm added.

Is it illegal to wear your seat belt incorrectly?

According to the California code, there is a legal way to use seat belts.

To be properly restrained by a safety belt, the lower part of the belt must cross your hips or upper thighs, and the upper shoulder part of the belt must cross your chest.

The California Driver’s Handbook, published by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, emphasizes that people should not wear their shoulder belts under their arms or behind their backs to avoid injury or death.

“Improperly wearing a seat belt, such as putting the strap below your arm, puts you and your children at risk in a crash,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its website.

What are penalties or fines for not using a safety belt?

Violating California’s seat belt code can result in a fine of $162, according to the state Office of Traffic Safety.

If kids under 16 are not properly buckled up, the parent or driver could get a fine of $490.

In addition to fines, a court may also order people convicted of a first offense to attend traffic school or a program to learn the proper use of safety belts, according to California code.

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