South Carolina Car Seat Laws for Child Safety

By Natasha Hoover

Child in a front-facing car seat.
Child in a front-facing car seat. | Source

Car Seat Laws

If you have a young child and live in the state of South Carolina, or are visiting for a family trip, you need to familiarize yourself with South Carolina car seat laws. Car seats aren't just for infants - a variety of car seats and booster seats are available to protect infants, toddlers, and young children.

The South Carolina laws are detailed, but easy to understand, and list the circumstances under which car seats must be used, as well as when exemptions to the laws are granted. Even if you think your child is big and old enough to ride without a car seat, take a minute to read over the laws. Using the correct car seat for your child not only helps ensure his or her safety, but also protects you from potential fines. Car seats and booster seats are provably more safe than restraining your child with an adult seat belt, so take the time to ensure your child is adequately protected by selecting the correct seat for his or her age and size.

Test your Car Seat Knowledge

Does My Child Need a Car Seat?

South Carolina's laws are very specific about us of car seats and booster seats. In order to accommodate different growth rates, the laws are based on a combination of age and weight.

  • Children from birth to age 1 and who weighs less than 20 pounds must sit in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children ages 1 through 5 years old who weigh between 20 and 40 pounds must sit in a front-facing car seat.
  • Children under the age of 5 who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds must use a belt-positioning booster seat that uses both lap and shoulder portions of the seat belt harness.
  • Children over the age of 1 who weigh more than 80 pounds may use a regular adult seat and seat belt if he/she can sit with back against the seat's back and knees bent over the seat's edge without slouching.
  • Children under the age of 6 must never sit in the front passenger seat, unless the vehicle has no back seat.

All car seats and booster seats must meet federal standards as provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For in-depth information on choosing the correct seat for your child, how to install the seat safely, and how to determine whether a car seat meets national standards, look at the National Highway Safety Traffic administration official car seat webpage.

When Do South Carolina Car Seat Laws Apply?

South Carolina's car seat laws do not apply in every single circumstance. The laws listed above are not applicable if the vehicle in use is:

  • A taxi or other commercial vehicle
  • An emergency vehicle operating under emergency circumstances
  • A bus/van/etc used by a church, daycare, or school
  • A public transportation vehicle.

Also, if the child is currently being fed or has any medical or physical impairment that makes using a car seat or booster seat impractical or impossible, the laws do not apply.

How Do Car Seats Protect Babies and Children?

Car seats aren't just a scheme to make you buy new things - they are a proven way to protect your child from injury. Rear-facing seats cradle an infant and are designed to move with the baby in the event of a crash, protecting the spinal cord from injury. Front-facing car seats have multiple harness and tether points to prevent your child from flying forward in the event of a crash. Booster seats help older, larger children fit securely in an adult harness so the belts fit correctly across his or her body.

When young children sit in a regular harness without a booster seat, the lap belt tends to ride up around the belly and the shoulder strap hits across the neck. This is incorrect - the straps are meant to fit across the hips and the shoulder. Until an adult seat belt harness fits your child correctly, he or she should use a booster seat. According to national recommendations, children should use a booster seat until the age of 12, if necessary, and should always sit in the back seat whenever possible.

Infant car restraint device.
Infant car restraint device. | Source

FAQ's About South Carolina Car Seat Laws

Q: What are the penalties for breaking SC car seat laws?
A: The offender is fined $150.

Q: Can failure to follow car seat laws lead to custodial arrest?
A: No, custodial arrest is not authorized, and a violation does not ever constitute negligence.

Q: What if I buy an approved car seat but a change in national standards mean my seat is no longer certified? Do I have to buy a new car seat?
A: No, as long as the car seat met national standards at the time of purchase, it is authorized for use.

Q: Do I have to use a car seat on private roads, such as while driving around my family's farm?
A: No, these laws apply to South Carolina public roads. However, it is always a good idea to follow these laws, even if you are using private roads.

Q: Do car seats wear out or expire?
A: Yes. Most car seats come with an expiration date tag. If yours does not, look for the manufacture date. Most car seats 'expire' after six years. Not only does ongoing research help companies develop safer car seats, but the plastics in car seats degrade. You may not see this degradation with the naked eye, but it can have fatal consequences for your child. If you have any questions about your car seat, take it to a safety inspection center.

South Carolina car seat laws are a useful guide for parents who want to protect their children. From back-facing seats to front-facing seats and booster seats, child restraint devices exist to protect your child from birth until he or she is large enough to safely use an adult seat belt. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the laws, purchase a car seat that is up to national standards, and make sure you use a 'fresh' car seat to ensure maximum safety for your child.

Comments 7 comments

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Great hub, I get really angry with people who let seat belt rules bother them. Surely they do want their children safe and these are common sense rules. Thank you for getting them out there!

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii Author

People do get irritated, but it's easy for adults to forget how different children and their saftey requirements are. Almost no one I see on the roads uses the correct child restraints. They may use the legal minimum, but they sure don't continue using booster seats for as long as they should! I know I didn't, when I was a kid.

josh3418 profile image

josh3418 4 years ago from Pennsylvania


Very interesting hub Natasha! I have to admit, I failed the quiz! LOL But, I am still single, so that is alright. :) I enjoyed learning about laws. While reading my mind couldn't help but wonder are the rules pretty much similar in all states or no?

Have a great rest of your weekend!

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii Author

Thanks for stopping by!

Many laws are sort of similar, but not identical. All states, DC, USVI, and Guam have at least some laws about child car restrains. Not all states require the use of booster seats, and a few states have laws about school buses needing seat belts. I'd categorize the SC laws as kind of middle of the road. For example, some states only charge $10 for a violation, but others charge $500!

Samantha 2 years ago

My question is, when will SC change their car seat laws to reflect the AAP's recommendations to keep your child rear-facing until age two? I have heard that you will receive a $150 ticket if your child is over one and is still rear-facing, even though after reading the research, it is much safer to keep them in a rear-facing poison.

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 2 years ago from Hawaii Author

Wow - that's crazy! I don't know. I actually moved from SC a few months ago. =( I'll have to see what I can find, though.

Lucinda 2 months ago

Our child could not stay in a rear facing at 2 years old because of his length. But he is 6 now and weight is 55 lbs. the seat he is in the belt doesn't fit good in and I am trying to find out what set of any he is suppose to be in but no one can seem to tell me.

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