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Author Topic: What are the laws regarding seat belts in bus conversions/RVs?  (Read 3519 times)
belfert
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« on: February 10, 2008, 05:35:16 PM »

Are bus conversions/RVs legally required to have seat belts for passenger seats?  I still have the dividers that seperated the passengers from the driver in my bus as I don't have a traditional passenger seat like most motorhomes and conversions.

The reason for my question is due to my work with a Boy Scout troop.  I was planning to take up to 10 boys plus an other adult in my bus to summer camp this summer,  but I realized the Boy Scouts require seat belts be used.  They do not require seat belts in tour buses, but I have no idea where an RV sits in the eyes of the BSA.
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2008, 05:53:02 PM »

The law varies by state.  You will need to check the laws in the state(s) you intend to drive through.

Bear in mind that you will also need a CDL with a passenger endorsement to drive the Boy Scouts around in many states -- the actual number of passengers that will trip that provision also varies by state.  And, in some states, you will need extra certification if the passengers are minors.  This applies even if the vehicle is a privately registered automobile.

Remember that, in any state, you no longer have a bus (unless you registered it as a bus, pay commercial plates, and have a CDL-B/P), you have a "motor home," "house car," or, in some cases, a "non-commercial passenger van", and the exemption that commercial buses generally enjoy regarding unbelted passengers does not apply to you.

Most states require all seating positions to have belts, whether or not the law also mandates that they be used.  There are exceptions for vehicles built prior to a certain year if the vehicle was not originally built with belts.

The bottom line is that the laws are very complex, and, as I said, you will need to look them up, notwithstanding a bunch of advice to the contrary that you will no doubt receive.

Since we built our coach to be used in all 49 continental states, we went with the "lowest common denominator" -- we put belts in for eight people, which is the limit for non-CDL drivers in some states.

Lastly, before you go carting the Boy Scouts around, you might want to check with your insurance carrier to see if that is a covered use.  One injury while you're at the wheel (or if you are the owner of the bus) can easily bankrupt you if they deny any claim.

-Sean
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2008, 07:39:31 PM »

Brian, I will not tackle the seat belt issue, however I know about the Federal DOT regulation concerning transporting passengers.
Here it is.
If you transport 16 people including the driver you have to have a CDL for the type vehicle you drive, with a passenger endorsement, have a complete DOT Driver Qualification file which includes the DOT Physical, and a Pre-Employment drug test, plus be in a random selection program for drug/alcohol testing.
If it is 15 passengers including the driver...NOT FOR HIRE, (In other words you are not being compensated) you don't have to have anything.
If you are transporting 8 passengers plus the driver (But no more than 15 passengers including the driver)...FOR COMPENSATION...AND you are traveling more than 75 air mile radius, you have to have a DOT Driver Qualification file.

The Driver Qualification file is this;
Completed Driver Application For Employment,
Reference checks for previous three years employment,
DOT Physical,
Current Motor Vehicle Record, (Within a year.)
After one year, a Certification of Violations Form,
After a year, An Annual Review of Driving Record Form,

Also for the CDL driver;
Drug/Alcohol Inquiries for previous three years employment.

Hope that helps.
Jack
PS...the advise about checking with your insurance agent to make sure you are covered is a GREAT one!
In fact the large coaches have to have $5Million coverage!
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2008, 09:18:54 PM »

Brian, I will not tackle the seat belt issue, however I know about the Federal DOT regulation concerning transporting passengers....


The Federal regulations may or may not be relevant.  Federal CDL requirements only come into play when the enterprise is a commercial one and it crosses state lines.

The states alone get to decide what the requirements are for anything that (a) happens strictly within their own state boundaries, including commerce and (b) anything at all when it is not of a commercial nature.  The federal government's sole interest, as dictated by the constitution, has to do with interstate commerce.

That being said, the feds do have an interesting end-run around the constitution, which they use, for example, to enforce nationwide vehicle safety standards (so that, for example, Maine can't decide unilaterally that turn signals have to be pink, while Virginia says they have to be green).  That mechanism involves the threat of withholding federal highway funding.  So if your state fails to adopt, for example, FMVSS 108 into law, your highway funding will be cut.  This is how the feds managed to force compliance with a nationwide 55mph speed limit in the 70's.

Some states have chosen, as a matter of convenience, to adopt the same standards for intrastate commerce as those that are in force for interstate commerce.  But, in most states, volunteering to drive Boy Scouts around does not fall under those regulations, right up until it is either done for financial remuneration, or a threshold of some kind is exceeded such as number of people in the vehicle, or number or trips per year.

The instant you cross state lines, the matter once again is one of federal interest.  The feds have uniformly interpreted the act of transporting passengers unrelated to the driver to be, de facto, interstate commerce whether any money changes hands or not, so long as it involves more than eight passengers.  This is why, for example, if you are going to take your church group on an interstate outing in their MC-5, you need to have a class B CDL with a passenger endorsement, even if the church owns the bus and you are driving strictly as a volunteer.  Many drivers (and churches) apparently do not know this, and you occasionally hear about an improperly licensed driver getting in trouble, usually after an accident.

Again, I encourage you to check on the laws in your state.  This is a complex matter, and, frankly, I would not undertake it without legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in the state(s) in question.  And no way would I ever, under any circumstances (legal or not), drive a vehicle with an unbuckled minor on board -- the liability is just too great.  So my personal advice is to install proper restraints for every passenger, no matter what else you find out.  FWIW.

-Sean
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2008, 10:31:47 PM »

"And no way would I ever, under any circumstances (legal or not), drive a vehicle with an unbuckled minor on board "

Law or no law, I think this pretty much covers it.
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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2008, 10:37:16 PM »

keep in mind restraints must be designed and tested for particular vehicles and seats.

installing your own restraints is a quicker way to the poor house via court house than operating a vehicle that was never equiped with such restraints.
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« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2008, 06:35:04 AM »

This would not be a for hire situation so I am 99% sure no CDL would be required as there are not more than 15 passengers.  I would certainly not try to add seatbelts.

I think I'll just forget about this idea even though I still have bus seats and the traveling arrangements are no different than if the bus was still a passenger bus.
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« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2008, 06:46:32 AM »

I have been a Scout leader longer than the 8 years I have owned my bus. While it has been very temping to use the bus for scouting purposes, I have limited it's use to carrying my own sons or gear only (and then only rarely). Assuming BSA regs are the same nationwide, carting the kids to summer camp is going to require that a Tour Permit be completed. On the Tour Permit application you must fill out driver and vehicle info, and it asks "Will every passenger have a seatbelt?"   Unless somebody at Council is asleep at the switch, I'm betting you never get the tour permit approved if you answer "no" to the seatbelt question. If you hire a commercial tour bus, it will be viewed differently, but a privately owned conversion is going to do more than raise a few eyebrows.  
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« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2008, 01:49:33 PM »

Our plan is to have a miminum of lap belts and possibly the full house 5 point harness for all of the delegated/designated forward facing seats.  Besides being safer, the harness setup would be a conservation subject and stuff.  Proper seats and mounting techniques will also be required.

Having said this, I do not think (for right now) there are any laws in Oregon requiring passenger seating restraints in a motor coach.  However, common sense would suggest that we need a way to prevent things and people from becoming flying objects when bad things happen.  Smiley Smiley Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2008, 01:52:05 PM »

This would not be a for hire situation so I am 99% sure no CDL would be required as there are not more than 15 passengers.  I would certainly not try to add seatbelts.

I think I'll just forget about this idea even though I still have bus seats and the traveling arrangements are no different than if the bus was still a passenger bus.

Brian you are missing two major componets that it would have if it were still a passenger bus! (1) The US DOT CDL qualified experienced (verified) driver! & (2) the federally required minimum of 5 million $ insurance (which in my personal opinion) is the one thing you should be most concerned with when carring minors.  FWIW
Grin  BK  Grin

PS I am by any means or way indicating that (A) your not an experienced or (B) qualified or (C) safe driver of your bus for personal use. But the minute you put SOMEONE elses MINOR child in your bus, things change drasticaly in the eyes of JUROR$!
Grin  BK  Grin
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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2008, 03:36:00 PM »

This would not be a for hire situation so I am 99% sure no CDL would be required as there are not more than 15 passengers.  I would certainly not try to add seatbelts.

I think I'll just forget about this idea even though I still have bus seats and the traveling arrangements are no different than if the bus was still a passenger bus.

Brian you are missing two major componets that it would have if it were still a passenger bus! (1) The US DOT CDL qualified experienced (verified) driver! & (2) the federally required minimum of 5 million $ insurance (which in my personal opinion) is the one thing you should be most concerned with when carring minors.  FWIW
Grin  BK  Grin

I was strictly talking about seating arrangements, not the rest of the stuff a real charter bus has, but I think you knew that.
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2008, 03:42:51 PM »

Our local Boy Scout council quit requiring tour permits if the trip is within council boundaries or to a council camp.  The two local councils merged in 2005 and we rarely have to file tour permits any more due to the large size of the council now.  This particular trip would not require a tour permit.

I was thinking this might be a bad idea before I posted it, but now I can see for sure it would a bad idea.  I know the boys would enjoy the five hour trip a lot more in the bus because the bus has more seat room than a typical vehicle, but they'll just have to put up with a regular car.

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« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2008, 03:57:32 PM »

Brian,

Check with the local council on there insurance.

My experience has been that they have large umbrella policys for Leaders under these circumstances.

I would see if they also cover liability relating to transportation associated with these outings.

Cliff
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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2008, 05:05:37 PM »

Cliff is right. TALK to your local district & find out what the REAL rules are.

It's great you want to help with scouting.  Grin  Grin  Grin

My understanding is that if I'm driving scouts for a scout function, the BSA insurance, not mine, covers all the scouts.  Grin

Think about it, it only makes sense that way. Otherwise, the only trips would be ones you could walk to.

Another thing, you could get waivers for the parents to sign.

Personally, if I was that worried about liability, I wouldn't leave the house.  Shocked

Volunteer for scouts & set a good example for the boys & girls. Lord knows they need REAL HEROS! They already have enough zeros.
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« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2008, 05:40:16 PM »

Not trying to stir it up any more than it is...however...I would check to see if the BSA insurance is the Primary or secondary.  Probably the secondary, witch means it pays after yours stops...in other words if you hit the limits of your liablity, then the BSA takes over.  I suspect that is the case.
And like Kyle said, anyone involved in Boy Scouts...my hats of to them!
Jack
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« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2008, 06:14:42 PM »

Yep, BSA is secondary & covers registered leaders & scouts only.
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« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2008, 08:54:35 PM »

Yep, BSA is secondary & covers registered leaders & scouts only.

I think that is essentially the intent, however I am not sure that there isn't coverage extended to non-registered adults who are driving on official scout trips. For example, if one of the Scout's Dads, who is not a registered leader, helps out by driving on a trip, there may be secondary liability coverages extended to him as well.

Brian: Yes, tour permits are only required for out of council trips. Since the geography of our council is much smaller, we almost always travel out of council and need to file for a permit. At my previous Troop we were less than 1/2 mile from the border between two different councils.  If we went by the exact letter of the regulation we would have had to file a separate tour permit to take the boys grocery shopping on Thursday night before a weekend trip.   
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« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2008, 01:52:48 AM »

Cliff is right. TALK to your local district & find out what the REAL rules are.

It's great you want to help with scouting.  Grin  Grin  Grin

My understanding is that if I'm driving scouts for a scout function, the BSA insurance, not mine, covers all the scouts.  Grin

Think about it, it only makes sense that way. Otherwise, the only trips would be ones you could walk to.

Another thing, you could get waivers for the parents to sign.

Personally, if I was that worried about liability, I wouldn't leave the house.  Shocked

Volunteer for scouts & set a good example for the boys & girls. Lord knows they need REAL HEROS! They already have enough zeros.

Kyle, Brian and everybody else,
First off trust me I think what Brian is considering or wanting to do is awesome! I was a Boy Scout myself! That being said I remember my dad using our sticks & staples MH back in the 70's to take me and most of the troop & drop us off at camp. Again it was awesome, and many of the boys had never been in any kind of camper/MH before and some probably never were again. So it is something that the boys do/will remember a lifetime! OK that been said, yes I believe any and all Scout leaders / Volunteers do a great service to the troops. The thing ya gotta remember is the 70's are over and there is a whole new mentality out there these days! First off just because the BSA has insurance and says "don't worry yer covered" please look out for yourselves first! Make sure you get it in writing from the insurance carrier, up front before ever letting the first scout on da bus! This day an age it doesn't matter who you are, if something goes wrong (which we never can tell when it will) the lawyers get to the "victims & their families" one way or another!  And once they do they convince them "to sue anybody and everybody and let the JURORS and the JUDGE decide who pays what!" Now since you have a home, motorcoach, and whatever else appears to have value written all over it, and you are directly involved. It doesn't matter if your in debt out the yenyang, you look as though you are "loaded" and you will be sued! Next the BSA's insurance lawyers are gonna protect the BSA since they pay the bill, and well if it works out that it's convenient to cover you too in the process well then that's a bonus! But the truth is their # responsibility is gonna be the BSA, unless you have it writing to prove that the BSA (1) new about this, (2) approved this (3) notified the insurance company of it in advance! So who's gonna end up being the scape goat? If it were a perfect world we wouldn't need to worry, but this is 2008 and people sue (& win) over the first thing they think of! FWIW
Please protect yourself first!
Grin  BK  Grin
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« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2008, 05:34:39 AM »

The following sums it all up to make sure all are protected;


TALK to your local district & find out what the REAL rules are.

Then, if you're still worried but want to drive, talk to a lawyer about liability waivers for the kid's parents to sign.
Talk to your insurance company to make sure they know & you ARE covered.

If something bad happens & you end up being sued, it's a sorry jurry pool that would hold you responsible. Not to mention you didn't get a decent lawyer.

Just my $.02

BTW, I do drive for my scout troop & I know the parents of every scout that gets in my car. My way.
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« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2008, 05:42:51 AM »

Gentlemen and Bus Nuts:

As a lurking Bus Not, I have almost always agreed with the comments made by BK and and most posters here, except the ones that are to sensitive, in this case I am forced to agree with most of what was said, even if I don’t want to.

By background, I am an Eagle Scout – My father often drove myself and troop members in our converted Flxible – and yes, it was the ‘70’s.  A different time if not place.  Currently, beyond being a forlorn Bus Not, I am a Corporate Risk Manager.  (What you ask is that ?  I am an corporate insurance geek, I oversee the casualty insurance that the company buys, manage our claims, supervise the issuance of Certificates of Insurance and Surety Bonds and consult on contractual insurance provisions.  Like I said, a geek who reads insurance policies !)

The disagreement.

   The vehicle owner’s insurance is Primary.  (Period, end of discussion.)
   The owner’s excess insurance is on the hook next.  (Excess, as in your personal umbrella policy)
   The driver’s insurance would follow, (primary automobile liability followed by excess) assuming he / she is different from the vehicle owner.
   BSA’s insurance would then, and only then come into play IF that is what it is designed to do.  (Sorry, I haven’t read the policy and simply do not know)

NOTE:     This applies to personal automobile insurance and NOT Business Insurance which is a whole different animal.

FREE ADVICE:   If you APPEAR to be anything but homeless with a toy or two, you should seriously consider, (BUY IT !) a homeowners umbrella policy.  It is generally very cheap and often provides coverage for things that are not covered under your personal automobile or homeowners policies.  See your agent or call a lizard as I don’t sell insurance.

THE APPEAL:     If anyone can see their way to help out there local Troop, please do so.

Thank you,

Richard Kieser, ARM
Unfortunate Bus Not and Eagle Scout

ARM – Associate in Risk Management  (Means something to insurance geeks)
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« Reply #20 on: February 12, 2008, 05:54:34 AM »

To make it clear, I've given up on this idea.  I'm 99% sure the council would decline to allow a bus conversion without seat belts to be used.  I am certainly not going to add seat belts.

I'll continue to do as I have the last few years and borrow a vehicle from my parents for the week to haul scouts to camp.  My VW Golf is only big enough to haul one scout comfortably and that is against BSA policy.  The back seat is way too small to haul anybody on a 5 hour trip.  For a number of years I had crew cab F350s and that worked fine for the trip to camp.

I've volunteered with a local scout troop since May 1998 in various capacities even though I have no kids.  I have been assistant Scoutmaster, Committee Chair, and committee member over the years.  I've also been treasurer and coordinated all campouts for several years.  I've done all of the leader training and Wood Badge.

Not using my bus conversion to take scouts to summer camp isn't going to stop me from going to camp or wroking with the scout troop.

Oh yes, I do have a $1 million umbrella liability policy.  I have had this since the first insurance policy I ever took out.  My insurance is quite expensive because of the high limits I have even though I've never a ticket and get the accident free discount.
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« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2008, 05:54:44 AM »

Richard, Kyle, Brian, Bryce, et. al.;  This has been a very educational post...and I think we have all learned from it!  Thanks to the powers that be that did not say it was off topic and throw it in never never land!
I think the most important thing is that Brian, had a concern and has got some real good advice from some folks that know!  And that's a GREAT thing.
And Richard, I have my ARM study manuals here, I may complete that some day!
Jack Hart, CDS
PS...Richard, we all started out as "Lurking butnuts!"  Next thing you know, you talk to a couple...you got a bus!
Don't you wish you had the Flxible now? Grin
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« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2008, 07:16:42 AM »

Quote
Richard, Kyle, Brian, Bryce, et. al.;  This has been a very educational post...and I think we have all learned from it!  Thanks to the powers that be that did not say it was off topic and throw it in never never land!
I think the most important thing is that Brian, had a concern and has got some real good advice from some folks that know!  And that's a GREAT thing.

Right on Jack! My sentiments EXACTLY!! This was/is a VERY good post.
Thanx all, especially Richard.
   Chaz
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« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2008, 07:17:31 AM »

Since this thread has sort of morphed into a "Bus and Scouting" discussion, let me share the additional story.

Last year, I received a phone call from a fellow bus owner who lives in the Gettysburg area. He also owns a 4104 and is in the process of resurrecting it.  Over the past year, we have exchanged a few phone calls discussing the ins and outs of 4104s as his work progresses, but have not gotten together.  In passing, I happened to mention that we are hoping to take our Boy Scout troop out to tour the Gettysburg battlefield in April of this year. Gettysburg permits a limited number of Troops to camp in a particular area, and it is sort of a lottery to see if you get space.  On thing has led to another, and my bus friend has graciously offered up his place for the boys to camp if our plans at the battlefield fall through.  I thought that was a wonderful gesture and we may end up needing to take him up on that.

If we do take the troop to his place, my friend indicated that there was plenty of space to bring my bus. I generally do not use the bus for scouting but may make this the exception. For reasons already discussed, I will not be transporting scouts in it.  But if I take it out there, letting my friend look it over may help him answer questions he has about his 4104.  My bus may also solve a problem with regard to bathroom facilities for the Troop.  

Just one more example of why I think bus nuts are a great group.

WEC4104
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« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2008, 10:26:37 AM »

... I am certainly not going to add seat belts. ...



The BSA issue aside, I strongly advise you to check your state laws on this before driving with anyone unbelted.

If you get pulled over, and the officer finds passengers in seats that have no belts, you can be cited.  Moreover, she will not simply hand you the citation and wish you a nice day -- she'll make everyone without a belt get out of the coach and find another way home -- you will not be permitted to drive the coach even another inch with unrestrained occupants.

By contrast, if the belts are there, but some adults are not using them, usually the driver is off the hook -- the passengers not using belts are subject to citation instead.  Children, of course, are another matter -- the driver is still responsible for properly restraining children.  And in many states, that involves booster seats for those under a certain age or size.

You don't need to worry about seats that are only intended to be used while the coach is parked.  On many production coaches, you'll find free-standing dining chairs and sometimes recliners that fall into this category -- they will be clearly marked as not to be used for travel.  But any seats that will have butts in them while you are rolling need to have belts if your state requires them, or if you ever intend to drive into a state that does.

Lest anyone think that no one ever gets checked or pulled over for this, I can tell you by direct experience that they do.  Read down to about the fourth paragraph in this post:
http://ourodyssey.blogspot.com/2005/05/we-are-en-route-to-pedco-in-santa-fe.html
Note that we have Washington plates, and this incident occurred in California.

Also, strictly as a matter of opinion (but with some amount of experience behind it), the advice that you have more legal liability by adding belts than not is incorrect.  Obviously, you need to have some idea of how to do it right -- they need to be secured to the coach structure with hardware adequate to the task (vs. for example, running them into a plywood subfloor with lag screws).  But assuming you have exercised due care, in the event of an incident that brings you to court, most juries will take that into account, whereas if you elected to drive without restraints available at all in a place where the law requires them, a jury will almost certainly find that you acted recklessly.

Seat belts are cheap.  You can get aftermarket lap belts at any Flexsteel dealer, at many auto parts stores, from J.C. Whitney, and even, I think, at Camping World.  There is really no excuse for not having them wherever required.

FWIW, YMMV, etc.

-Sean
http://OurOyssey.BlogSpot.com
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Full-timing in a 1985 Neoplan Spaceliner since 2004.
Our blog: http://OurOdyssey.BlogSpot.com
niles500
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« Reply #25 on: February 12, 2008, 01:49:14 PM »

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=Ch0316/SEC614.HTM&Title=->2007->Ch0316->Section%20614#0316.614


4)  It is unlawful for any person:

(a)  To operate a motor vehicle in this state unless each passenger and the operator of the vehicle under the age of 18 years are restrained by a safety belt or by a child restraint device pursuant to s. 316.613, if applicable; or

(b)  To operate a motor vehicle in this state unless the person is restrained by a safety belt.


(d)  The requirements of this section shall not apply to the living quarters of a recreational vehicle or a space within a truck body primarily intended for merchandise or property

5)  It is unlawful for any person 18 years of age or older to be a passenger in the front seat of a motor vehicle unless such person is restrained by a safety belt when the vehicle is in motion


(10)  A violation of the provisions of this section shall not constitute negligence per se, nor shall such violation be used as prima facie evidence of negligence or be considered in mitigation of damages, but such violation may be considered as evidence of comparative negligence, in any civil action
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