Car crashes are a leading cause of death for young children. Unfortunately, a high percentage of children who are killed in crashes were not in the appropriate restraint system. (CDC, Child Passenger Safety: Get the Facts)
All 50 states have car seat laws. However, the exact requirements vary considerably.
South Carolina Car Seat Laws
South Carolina car seat laws require use of a car or booster seat use until age eight. There are varying requirements based on the child’s age and size.
What are the South Carolina car seat laws?
The South Carolina car seat law is S.C. Code § 56-5-6410. It requires the driver of a motor vehicle to secure the child in an approved car seat for the child’s age and size.
Car Seat Guidelines in South Carolina
Car seat laws by age:
- Ages 0-2 – Rear-facing car seat, in the backseat
- Ages 2-4 – Forward-facing car seat with a harness, in the backseat
- Ages 4-8 – Booster seat with lap and shoulder belts, in the backseat
- Ages 8+ or 57” – Adult seat belt
When can a child use an adult seat belt in South Carolina?
To lawfully use an adult seat belt in South Carolina, the child must properly fit the adult seat belt. They must:
- Be eight years old or at least 57 inches tall
- Wear the lap belt over their thighs and hips (not the abdomen)
- Adjust the shoulder belt to cross their chest (not the neck)
- Sit with their back straight against the back cushion and be able to bend their knees over the seat edge without slouching
What are the rear-facing South Carolina car seat laws?
Rear-facing South Carolina car seat laws apply until the child is two years old. An infant car seat must be used rear-facing until the child is two years old and until they outgrow the size and weight limitations of the seat. Once the child grows into the next size car seat, they can change to forward facing.
When can a child sit forward-facing in South Carolina?
A child may sit forward-facing in South Carolina when they are two years old and when they have outgrown the rear-facing infant passenger restraint system.
South Carolina Booster Seat Laws
What are the height and weight requirements for a booster seat in S.C.?
A booster seat must be used in S.C. until the child is 57 inches tall or eight years of age. There is no exact weight requirement before the child can go without a booster, but they must meet the height requirements to properly use an adult seat belt.
Can the booster seat be used with the lap belt alone?
No. A booster seat must be used with both the lap and shoulder belts. Just the lap belt alone is insufficient.
Front and Back Seat
At what age can a child sit in the front seat in South Carolina?
A child may sit in the front seat in South Carolina at age 8, once they can properly use an adult seat belt. However, Safe Ride4Kids recommends that children ride in the back seat until they turn 13.
Exemptions to South Carolina Car and Booster Seat Laws
The following vehicles are not subject to South Carolina car and booster seat laws:
- Emergency vehicles in an emergency
- Church vehicles
- Daycare vehicles
- School buses
- Public transportation
- Commercial vehicles
What if I’m from out of state? Do South Carolina car seat laws apply?
South Carolina car seat laws also apply to out-of-state drivers present in the state unless one of the exceptions apply. Even if your state’s car seat laws are different, you must comply with South Carolina laws while in South Carolina
Do I need a car seat on vacation in South Carolina?
If you use only taxis, public transportation, or hotel shuttles, you do not need a car seat on vacation in South Carolina. However, rideshare services, like Uber and Lyft, are not considered taxis. You must have the appropriate car seat if you’re in a taxi or a rental car.
South Carolina Car Seat Law FAQs
Is the driver or the parent responsible for the car seat in South Carolina?
The driver of the motor vehicle is required to ensure children in the vehicle are properly secured in car seats.
My child has a medical condition – Are they exempt from car seat laws?
A child may be exempt from car seat laws for medical reasons. They must have written documentation from their physician, advanced nurse practitioner, or physician assistant that they are unable to be transported in a standard child passenger safety restraint system. They may instead be transported in a traditional restraint system designed for their medical needs.
We’re doing a carpool – What if all the seats are taken?
If there aren’t enough rear seats for all the children under eight years old, a child may ride in the front seat. They must still use the appropriate child or booster seat. (S.C. Code § 56-5-6420).
What is the penalty for a car seat violation in South Carolina?
The penalty for a car seat violation in South Carolina is a fine of $150. There are no license points. (S.C. Code § 56-5-6450).
Can a car seat fine be waived in South Carolina?
Yes. In South Carolina, the court must waive a car seat fine if the person gets the appropriate car seat before their court date. The person must provide the court with evidence that they bought or otherwise acquired the right car seat. (S.C. Code § 56-5-6450).
Car Seat Violations and Legal Liability
Tragically, 12,615 children were the victims of car accidents in South Carolina in 2020. (South Carolina Traffic Collision Fact Book, 2020 Edition). Hundreds of these children suffered injuries. Questions of legal liability can arise for children who were not secured in the appropriate safety seat. The question can be especially complicated when the driver of the vehicle they were in was not responsible for the accident.
The legal question is whether the child’s potential financial recovery is reduced because the driver fails to secure them in the appropriate car seat. On the one hand, injuries may have been reduced if the appropriate car seat had been used. On the other hand, the child is not responsible for the driver’s failure to use the right car seat. For this reason, a child’s right to compensation should not be reduced as a result of a failure to use a car seat.
Is it considered negligence in a civil action that the child was not in the right car seat?
South Carolina does not consider the violation of car seat law to be negligence per se, contributory negligence, or an argument against damages in any civil action. Evidence of failure to use a car seat is not admissible in a car accident claim.
A child who is injured in a car seat in South Carolina may claim financial compensation in a negligence action even if they were not restrained in a car seat at the time of the crash. (S.C. Code § 56-5-6460). The car seat violation is not considered contributory negligence.
Car Seat Laws, Violations and Compensation in South Carolina
Child car accident victims have important legal rights. Because of the devastating injuries they may suffer at a young age, a car accident claim may be especially important.
Our lawyers help child victims and their families pursue car accident claims. If your child has been injured in an accident, we invite you to meet with us to learn more about the compensation your child may be entitled to receive and how we can help. Contact us today.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.