South Carolina’s Child Safety Seat and Seatbelt Laws

South Carolina’s child safety seat laws and the penalties of a violation.

South Carolina requires all motor vehicle occupants to be properly secured. A seatbelt is sufficient for most passengers, but children are subject to special requirements. The requirements for child safety seats vary depending on the child’s age, weight, and height. Below you’ll find more details on these requirements, as well as the penalties for a child seat or seatbelt violation.

Child Seat Requirements

All children under eight years old must be properly secured as follows.

Children under two years old. Generally, children must be rear-facing in an infant seat or rear-facing harness until reaching at least two years old. However, a child who exceeds the height and weight limits of these types of seats can advance to a forward-facing harness.

Children two-to-four years old. A child who’s at least two years old must be in a forward-facing harness until reaching the seat’s height and weight limits.

Children at least four years old. A child who’s at least four years old that has reached the size limits for harness seats must use a belt-positioning booster seat. Also, the child must be seated in the rear seat with a shoulder strap.

Children at least eight. Once a child is eight years old or 57 inches tall he or she can ride in the rear seat without a booster seat as long as:

  • the lap belt fits across the child’s hips and thighs (not the abdomen)
  • the shoulder strap crosses the center of the child’s chest (not the neck), and
  • the child is able to sit with his or her back against the seat and with knees bent over the edge of the seat without slouching.

Exceptions. A child holding a physician’s certificate indicating a medical inability to use a standard safety seat must still be secured in a specially-designed transport system. A child can only ride in the front seat if the rear seats are taken or the vehicle is not equipped with a back seat. Also, the car seat requirements do not apply to taxi drivers, emergency vehicles, bus drivers, or public transport vehicles.

Violation. A child restraint violation will result in a maximum $150 fine, plus court costs. The court will waive the fine if the offender shows proof of acquiring an appropriate car seat.

Seatbelt Requirements

All vehicle occupants are required to wear a seatbelt. Generally, the driver is responsible for ensuring all passengers are buckled. But passengers over 18 years old or who hold driver’s permits are responsible for themselves.

Exceptions. The seat belt laws do not apply to emergency responders, bus drivers, mail carriers, and vehicles not manufactured with seatbelts. An occupant is also exempt if a physician has certified that the use of a seat belt is not prudent due to the occupant’s medical condition.

Violations. Seatbelt violations generally carry a maximum $25 fine.

Recommendations

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety is tasked with establishing educational programs to help parents choose proper seating for their kids. These recommendations are helpful but not necessarily required. Car seats should always be used consistent with manufacturer instructions.

Birth

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13+

Rear-facing

Forward-facing

Booster (Rear Seat)

Seat Belt (Rear Seat)

Seat Belt

More Information and Resources

For more information about child restraint systems, check the recommendations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s also a good idea to register your car seat to be notified regarding recalls.

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