What is the law on seat belts in Trinidad and Tobago?

'But, officer, I AM wearing a seat belt.'

Safety while driving is always important and in T&T the driver and front seat passengers in a motor vehicle must wear seat belts while the vehicle is in motion.

Section 43A of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act states that motor vehicles must be outfitted with seat belts for the driver and the front seat passengers:

43A. (1) Every—
(a) private motor car;
(b) public service vehicle;
(c) goods vehicle; and
(d) rented car,
not exceeding a maximum tare weight of 3 000 kilogrammes, subject to such exemptions as may be prescribed, brought into, or assembled in Trinidad and Tobago shall, before such motor vehicle is registered, be fitted with a seat belt for the driver and for every passenger who may occupy a front seat of such vehicle and such seat belt shall form an integral and not an optional part of the vehicle.

According to section 43C(1) of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act the driver and every passenger 17 years and older occupying a front seat in the motor vehicle must wear a seat belt while the motor vehicle is in motion:

43C. (1) The driver and every passenger seventeen years of age or more occupying a front seat in any motor vehicle referred to in subsection (1) of section 43A shall wear a seat belt while the motor vehicle is in motion.

Failure of a driver and any passenger seventeen years and over to wear a seat belt while the vehicle is in motion will attract a fine of $1000TT – this is according to item no. 64 in the First Schedule of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Enforcement and Administration) Act. Please note that this means that once you are a front seat passenger who is 17 years or older and not wearing a seatbelt you are fined directly- not the driver.

According to section 43C(1A) of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act:

43C (1A) The driver of a motor vehicle referred to in section 43A(1) shall not without reasonable excuse drive a vehicle while there is in the front seat of the vehicle a person who is not wearing a seat belt.

This means driving a vehicle with a front seat passenger who is not wearing a seat belt will attract a fine of $1000TT– according to item 65 in the First Schedule of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Enforcement and Administration) Act. This means that if there is a person under 17 years of age who is a front seat passenger not wearing a seatbelt, the driver can be fined $1000TT.

If these $1000TT fines are not paid within the time specified on the ticket, proceedings will commence in the Magistrate’s Court and a Magistrate can impose a fine of $2000TT according to 43C(2) of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act:

43C. (2) Any person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (1) or subsection (1A) is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of two thousand dollars.

You will not be liable for not wearing a seat belt IF you as a driver or as a front seat passenger can prove that you held a valid certificate from a legally qualified medical practitioner that showed that you should not wear a seat belt for medical reasons and the medical certificate is valid for no more than two years from the date it was issued:

43C. (3) A person shall not be convicted under this section if he proves that at the material time he or the passenger, as the case may be, held a valid certificate signed by a legally qualified medical practitioner to the effect that it is inadvisable on medical grounds for him or the passenger to wear a seat belt and the certificate shall be valid for a period of not more than two years from the date of issue.

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