Editor’s note: This article was updated in 2022 to link to a more appropriate section of the relevant statute.
South Carolina’s child passenger restraint law states children under eight years old and under 4’9” tall must use a car seat or booster seat in a rear seat, and children at least eight years old or at least 4’9” tall must use a booster seat or safety belt, in a passenger car, pickup truck, van, recreational vehicle, or other motor vehicle equipped with safety belts on highways and streets. Child restraint systems must meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards when manufactured.
Babies and Children Up to Two Years Old
A child under two years old must be properly secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system in a rear seat. A child exceeding the manufacturer’s height or weight limits for a rear-facing child passenger restraint system must be secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system with a harness in a rear seat until exceeding that system’s height or weight limits.
Children Two to Three Years Old
A child between two and three years old must be properly secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system with a harness in a rear seat until exceeding that system’s height or weight limits.
Children Four to Seven Years Old
A child between four and seven years old who has outgrown a forward-facing passenger restraint system must be secured by a belt-positioning booster seat using both lap and shoulder belts in a rear seat until meeting adult safety seat belt height and fit requirements.
Children Eight to Seventeen Years Old or At Least 4’9” Tall
A child between eight and seventeen years old or at least 4’9” tall must be secured in a child restraint system or a fastened safety belt complying with federal law in a motor vehicle required by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to have safety belts. A child may wear an adult safety seat belt if the lap belt fits across the thighs and hips, not the abdomen; the shoulder belt crosses the center of the chest, not the neck; and the child can sit with his or her back straight against the seat back with knees bent over the seat edge without slouching.
A child seventeen years old or younger with a driver’s license, special restricted license, or beginner’s permit who is not wearing a seat belt will be fined for violating South Carolina’s safety belts law.
Penalties for Violations
The fine for violating South Carolina’s child passenger restraint system law is $150.00, which will be waived if you provide the court proof of acquisition, purchase, or rental of a child restraint system meeting legal requirements no later than the appearance date on your summons.
You will be fined up to $25.00 for violating South Carolina’s safety belts law, which cannot be suspended. You cannot be ordered to pay court costs, assessments, or surcharges; fined more than $50.00 for any incident; or assessed points. A violation is not a criminal offense and cannot be reported in your motor vehicle records or to your insurer. You, your occupant(s), and your motor vehicle cannot be searched. You cannot be issued a citation at a checkpoint unless you violate another motor vehicle law.
You cannot be arrested or taken into custody for violating South Carolina’s child passenger restraint system or safety belts law unless you fail to appear in court or pay a fine.
Law Enforcement May Stop Your Vehicle for a Suspected Violation
A law enforcement officer may stop you for probable cause based on a clear and unobstructed view of a driver or an occupant who is not wearing a safety belt or is not secured in a child restraint system.
Your child may be exempt from South Carolina’s child passenger restraint system law if he or she is:
- Under eight years old; properly secured in an appropriate child passenger safety restraint system or belt-positioning booster seat in the front seat; and the motor vehicle has no rear seat or all rear seats are occupied by children under eight years old;
- Being transported by a taxi; an emergency vehicle during an emergency; a church, day care, or school bus; a commercial vehicle; or public transportation; or
- Unable, for medical reasons substantiated in writing by a physician, advanced nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, to use a standard child passenger safety system but is secured in a child passenger safety restraint system designed for his or her medical needs.
Your child may be exempt from South Carolina’s safety belts law if he or she is:
- Unable to wear a safety belt for physical or medical reasons with a physician’s written verification; or
- Being transported by a school, church, or day care bus; by public transportation (excluding taxis); in a parade; or in a vehicle not originally equipped with safety belts or in which all belts are being used.
What are the booster seat requirements in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, the law states children between four and seven who have outgrown their forward-facing car seat must be properly secured in a belt-positioning booster seat in the back seat of a vehicle. SC car seat laws do not list any height or weight requirements for riding in a booster seat; check your manufacturer’s height and weight requirements before securing your child.
When can my child use a forward-facing car seat in South Carolina?
South Carolina’s child passenger restraint system law states that children over two years old and under four years old must ride in a properly secured forward-facing car seat. The child can ride in the forward-facing car seat until they outgrow the manufacturer’s height and weight limits for the car seat.
What are South Carolina child front seat laws?
According to South Carolina’s car seat law, a child under eight years old can ride in the front seat in an appropriate child passenger restraint system if the back seat is filled with properly secured riders under eight years old or if the vehicle does not have a back seat. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control recommends that all children under 13 years old ride in the back seat of a vehicle.
* Ms. Blake is licensed in the state of Maryland. The information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.