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South Carolina Car Seat Laws

Joanne Stene
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by Joanne Stene

Car seats can prevent children over one year old from death or serious injury in car accidents. Seat belts increase the chances of survival by almost 45%, while it can reduce the risk of death by 71% for infants.

The Child Passenger Safety Program was created in 1995 to ensure seat belt laws were upheld. Funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) grant, their mission is to protect children as much as possible from injuries or death from automobile accidents.

So what are the SC car seat laws? What about SC booster seat laws? How do you know if your child is in the right seat? Depending on their age and the type of seat, you should be familiar with these South Carolina car seat laws to avoid receiving any hefty fines. Read on to learn about the right seats for your child.

What are the SC Car Seat Laws?

South Carolina child seat laws are specified by a child’s age. They are described in Article 47, Section 56-5-6410 of the 1976 Code, which went into effect in 2017.

While children under four years old must stay in a car seat regardless of their height or weight, children between four and eight years must reside in a car seat until they either turn eight or reach a certain height.

Here are the car seat requirements, broken down by age groups.

Infants & Toddlers Under 2 Years

Rear facing seat

State law dictates that infants and toddlers under two years old need to sit in a rear-facing car seat that meets federal safety standards. They must sit rear-facing until they exceed the height or weight limit of the car seat as determined by the manufacturer.

Children Under 4 Years

front facing

For toddlers or young children under four years old that have outgrown the rear-facing car seat, they must sit in a forward-facing car seat with a harness in the backseat. Children should stay in a front-facing car seat until they grow out of it and exceed the height and weight limit of the seat.

Children at 4 Years or Older

Booster-Car-seat

According to SC car seat laws, children that are at least four years old must sit in a booster seat in the backseat of the vehicle until they can safely meet the requirements for an adult seatbelt. The booster seat must be used with both shoulder and lap belts. It cannot use a lap belt only.

Children Over 8 Years

middle-ridesfer-sq-1024_1024x1024

Any child that is 8 years or older or stands at least 57 inches or more must be securely seated with their seatbelt fastened. The adult seat belt should fit them properly, with the lap belt sitting across their upper thigh and the collarbone and chest, not digging into the neck.

If the seatbelt does not fit properly or your child slouches and cannot maintain the upright seating position, keep them in a booster seat until they are tall enough for the belt to rest comfortably and securely.

Penalties for Failing to Comply in South Carolina

The driver of the vehicle can be fined up to $150 for a first offense if a child is found not securely fastened in the right car seat or booster seat. The fine can be waived, however, if the driver provides evidence that they bought or rented a suitable child restraint system that meets federal requirements.

Vehicle Exclusions

Several vehicles are exempt from South Carolina’s car seat law. The list of excluded vehicles include:

  • Taxi cars
  • Emergency vehicles in an emergency
  • School buses, daycare drivers, and church cars or vans
  • Public transportation
  • Commercial vehicles

FAQ

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about South Carolina’s car seat laws.

Which Is Safer: High-Back Booster Seats or Backless?

There are two types of booster seats available for children: ones with back support, called high back seats, and backless boosters. According to Consumer Reports, backless booster seats are less safe than high-backed booster seats. High-backed ones are better at positioning the seat belt properly across the child’s chest and the lap belt across their thighs and hips.

When Do Kids Outgrow Car Seats?

Children must stay in rear-facing car seats, front-facing car seats, or booster seats until they exceed the height or weight limit of their child seat restraint system as determined by the manufacturer.

Where Does My Child Sit If There Is No Back Seat?

In this case, your child would ride in the front seat in either a booster or car seat. However, they must be secured properly in the appropriate seat for their age. It is also highly recommended that you turn off the airbag system if you have an in a rear-facing car seat. If deployed, airbags can injure young children due to their force.

At What Age Can My Child Move to the Front Seat?

When your child is older than 8 years and can use an adult seatbelt securely, they can sit in the front seat in South Carolina. Children can also sit in the front seat if there is no backseat in the vehicle. However, it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that children do not move to the front seat until they are 13 years old.

How Can I Test If My Child Is Properly Secured in the Car?

There is a seat belt test that all children under 13 years old can try. Sit them right against the backseat and see if their knees naturally bend at the edge without slouching. If their knees do bend naturally over the seat’s edge, move to the next step.
Put on their seat belt. The lap belt should rest on the upper legs. If it does, check that the shoulder belt is sitting across their chest without digging into their neck. If the belt rests on their shoulder, see if your child slouches or does not sit correctly and upright with the seat belt on.
If your child fails any part of this seat belt fit test, have them ride in a booster seat until they can meet all of the steps.

Can I Leave My Child in the Car?

In South Carolina, no law specifically addresses leaving your child unattended in the car. However, an officer may charge you with neglect if it is thought you may have put the child’s life in danger.

Final Thoughts

The car seat laws SC depend on a child’s age and natural growth. For infants under two, they must stay in a rear-facing car seat. However, if they outgrow their car seat but are still under two years old, they can use a forward-facing car seat instead.

These laws are less restrictive and allow a little more freedom for the child and parent. However, your child must meet the height and fit requirements for an adult seatbelt to ensure their security.

If you are not sure if you are using the correct car seat or would like to check your child’s seat safety, there are a few different areas you can go to in South Carolina for a free inspection of your child’s car seat. You can find a list of available safety stations at Safe Kids South Carolina.

About Joanne Stene
Joanne Stene
Joanne is a mother of 2 young girls and a technical writer with over 20 years of professional experience. She originally got interested in the topic of car seats as her two daughters were born and during the course of research into which seats to buy for her family. That interest has turned into a passion of sharing information on the Elite Car Seats website.
Joanne Stene
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