(a)(1) In this section the following words have the meanings indicated.
(2) “Seat belt” means a restraining device described under § 22-412 of this subtitle.
(3) “Vehicle” means an emergency vehicle purchased or leased by the State, a county, municipality, or volunteer fire department or rescue squad and operated by a:
(i) State, county, or municipal fire department;
(ii) Volunteer fire department; or
(iii) Rescue squad.
(b) A vehicle registered in the State and manufactured and assembled after January 1, 1990 shall be equipped with a seat belt or safety restraining device approved by the local authority having jurisdiction for each position on the vehicle that may be lawfully occupied by a passenger.
(c)(1) The failure of a person to use a seat belt or restraining device required under this section may not:
(i) Be considered evidence of negligence;
(ii) Be considered evidence of contributory negligence;
(iii) Limit liability of a party or an insurer;
(iv) Diminish recovery for damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or operation of a motor vehicle; or
(v) Be considered a moving violation for purposes of § 16-402 of this article.
(2) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (3) of this subsection, a party, witness, or counsel may not make reference to a seat belt during a trial of a civil action that involves property damage, personal injury, or death if the damage, injury, or death is not related to the design, manufacture, installation, supplying, or repair of a seat belt required under this section.
(3)(i) Nothing contained in this subsection may be construed to prohibit the right of a person to institute a civil action for damages against a dealer, manufacturer, distributor, factory branch, or other appropriate entity arising out of an incident that involves a defectively installed or defectively operating seat belt.
(ii) In a civil action in which 2 or more parties are named as joint tort-feasors, interpleaded as defendants, or impleaded as defendants, and 1 of the joint tort-feasors or defendants is not involved in the design, manufacture, installation, supplying, or repair of a seat belt, a court shall order separate trials to accomplish the ends of justice on a motion of any party.
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