Seatbelt stings are becoming ever more frequent in the City of Annapolis. One area that has recently seen a great deal of the city's seatbelt enforcement activity (we'll call it the "Annapolis Seatbelt Sting") is inbound Forest Drive just before Spa Road. Several drivers have reported a bright light that impairs the vision of oncoming drivers who are then funneled into a single lane and observed, via binoculars from a police vehicle you can't see (again, the bright light) to determine whether the car occupants have their seatbelts fastened. Any vehicle with a driver or front seat passenger not having a fastened seat belt will be flagged off the road to await the issuance of a citation.
Why Seatbelt Stings?
So why the need for an Annapolis seatbelt sting? Primarily to ensure that motorists comply with certain provisions of the Maryland Seat Belt Law which provides that a person may not operate a motor vehicle unless the person, the passenger in the front seat, and each occupant under 16 years of age are restrained by a seat belt or a child safety seat.
Public safety, then, is the main reason for such an operation. Make no mistake, however, that this type of safety law enforcement also serves as a source of revenue for the city, the reason so many consider the activity a "sting", especially when it's conducted in the way we've described at Forest Drive.
We know there are those who object to seatbelt laws because of a belief that they symbolize an intrusion into our lives and infringe on personal liberties. For those, there is unfortunately no "conscientious objector" exception to the law. Others may have been preoccupied when getting on the road and have simply forgotten to buckle up. There's no exception for a simple "oops" either.
What You Need To Know
So, in addition to the fact that no person may operate a motor vehicle unless the driver and every passenger 16 and under is appropriately restrained, here are the other important things you should know to avoid a traffic citation (or worse) from an Annapolis seatbelt sting:
- A car can be pulled over if the driver and/or a front seat passenger is observed by law enforcement to not be wearing a seat belt. Known as a "primary" offense, the Maryland law allows police officers to issue a ticket without any other traffic offense occurring.
- The fine for an unbuckled driver is $50.
- An unbuckled passenger can be fined $50 as well. If the passenger is in the front seat, this is also a "primary" offense. If the passenger is in the backseat, violation is a "secondary" offense, which means a citation may be issued only when there is another traffic violation such as, for example, speeding, failing to yield, faulty brake lights or...the driver isn't buckled in!
- If the passenger is under 16 years old, the driver will be issued the $50 dollar fine.
If you find yourself being the victim of an Annapolis seatbelt sting, be sure to check with competent legal counsel to ensure that you haven't been wrongfully cited.