Are drivers responsible for passengers wearing seat belts?

It is well known that seat belts save lives when car accidents occur. Yet at the same time, not everyone wears them. Some people may consciously choose not to use a seat belt, yet in many cases, people simply forget to buckle up. Yet when you have a family member or friend who is injured in car accident in Shelby while traveling as a passenger (and it is subsequently discovered that they were not wearing a seat belt), you may question why the driver of the vehicle allowed them to do so. 

To take that point even further, you might wonder if the driver might be liable for not ensuring that all of their passengers were restrained. The answer to that question depends on the circumstances of the accident. According to Section 55-9-603 of Tennessee's Annotated Code, a vehicle may not be driven on the state's roadways unless the driver and all passengers over the age of four are wearing a seat belt. From this, it might be inferred that if a driver drives without their passengers being restrained, they are in violation of the law and thus can be held liable. 

Yet what this assumption does not take into account is that the previously mentioned statute only applies to those traveling in the front seat. Backseat passengers are required to see to their own safety. However, drivers are also required to ensure that any passengers under the age of eight (regardless of where they are sitting in the vehicle) who are under certain height and weight limits be secured in car seats or boosters. Thus, the option to hold a driver liable for not seeing to proper seat belt usage in their vehicle may be available in certain scenarios. 

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