In California, it's common knowledge that wearing a seat belt anytime a driver or passenger is in a moving vehicle is the law. However, compliance regarding California seat belt law becomes a little confusing when it comes to seat belt requirements in classic cars and trucks.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Cars and trucks built before January 1, 1964 are not required to comply with current seat belt laws if they were not required to do by federal law at the time of the vehicle's sale, but young children are the exception.
The California Seat Belt Law
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, seat belts are mandatory for everyone in a moving vehicle, as they reduce the possibility of a driver or passengers getting thrown from a car or truck during an accident. Without seat belts, the risk of severe injuries and fatalities climbs exponentially.
Currently, California seat belt law requires that anyone eight years old or older and children who are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall wear seat belts. Children who are younger than eight, or who are less than 4 feet 9 inches tall, must be seated securely in a federally-approved child seat. All seat belts and restraints must be in proper working order and have both a lap belt and shoulder harness.
Seat Belts for Adults in Classic Cars
Many antique and classic cars came without seat belts. Later, toward the middle of the 20th century, seat belts were added but were used around the lap only. While lap belts were a significant improvement over no belt at all, they still caused a fair share of injuries to the abdomens and spinal columns of vehicle drivers and passengers.
Before January 1, 1964, vehicles did not require seat belts and, according to California Vehicle Code 27315, cars and trucks built before that date are not required to comply with current seat belt laws if they were not required to do by federal law at the time of the vehicle's sale. While it's not mandatory to outfit your classic car or truck with seat belts, it is, however, advisable for safety's sake, especially if you drive your antique car on a daily basis.
California Seat Belt Law Exceptions
There is one exception to the rule that doesn't require vintage vehicles to have seat belts. While CVC 27315 exempts adults from having to wear seat belts in vintage cars and trucks, it does not exempt children from wearing them. The law dictates that a child younger than six years old or one that weighs less than 60 pounds must be secure in a booster or child safety seat in a vintage or classic vehicle.
- seat belt receptacle image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com