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New Hampshire lives up to its “Live Free or Die” motto: This state has no car safety laws obligating adults to wear seat belts. Even Texas laws are stricter. Here’s what’s wild: that may not even be New Hampshire’s most dangerous traffic law.

What happens if you aren’t wearing a seat belt?

The NHTSA reports that if you are riding in the front of a car you are 45% more likely to die in a crash without a seat belt. In a truck, that number goes up to 60% ( In 49 states, you are also breaking the law. But in many places, being unbuckled is a “secondary” offense. This means you’ll only get a ticket if you are pulled over for something else.

Bright orange seat belt, unbuckled on a leather truck seat.
Orange seat belt | Remy Lovesy via Unsplash

I suppose I can understand the urge to ride your motorcycle without your helmet: feeling the wind in your hair and all that. And I can see why you’d be tempted to hop in the back of a pickup truck with no room left in the cab, rather than walk. But I struggle to understand why anyone would leave their seat belt unbuckled. Taking two seconds to buckle up could save you from horrific, crippling injuries–or worse. Perhaps this is just a sign of my age. I learned to drive after most states had passed seat belt laws, so buckling mine is a reflex. Like many folks, I feel odd not wearing one in a moving car.

Will you get a ticket for not wearing a seat belt?

That completely depends on where you are driving–and how old you are. If you live in a state where being unbuckled is a “primary” offense, a police officer can pull you over and ticket you for not wearing a seat belt.

The back of a vehicle driver's seat, with their seatbelt fastened.
Buckled seat belt | Chris Martin via Unsplash

If you live in a state where being unbuckled is a “secondary” offense, you won’t get pulled over for ignoring your seat belt. But if you get pulled over for speeding, running a light, or even having a taillight out, then a police officer can also hit you with a seat belt ticket.

Note that whether it is a primary or secondary offense, if you aren’t wearing a seat belt when you crash, your insurance company may not pay out as much to cover your injuries.

Of course, there’s one exception. If you are an adult, you are legally allowed to drive or ride without a seat belt in New Hampshire.

What does the saying ‘Live Free or Die’ mean?

The phrase was popularized by New Hampshire Revolutionary War General John Stark. He followed it with, “Death is not the worst of all evils.” It has come to represent the libertarian approach many New Hampshire residents feel their government should take to legislating.

New Hampshire has a culture that values personal freedom. This is especially apparent as it is a small state neighboring several more liberal states.

One way the New Hampshire government avoids telling its citizens what to do is with permissive traffic laws. Things that are illegal for motorists to do in some other states are allowed in New Hampshire. New Hampshire has no helmet law for motorcyclists. It also has no law governing when and how you can ride in the bed of a pickup truck.

Next, find out all the states that allow you to ride in the bed of a pickup truck or see some of the results of New Hampshire’s seat belt laws in the video below: