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Charleston Family Law Attorney Charleston Divorce Lawyer Charleston Criminal Attorney Charleston DUI Lawyer
Futeral & Nelson 843-284-5500 1004 Anna Knapp Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
If you'd like for us to send you an email when the book is updated, please fill out and send this form.
Charleston Family Law Attorney Charleston Divorce Lawyer Charleston Criminal Attorney Charleston DUI Lawyer
Futeral & Nelson 843-284-5500 1004 Anna Knapp Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
If you'd like for us to send you an email when the book is updated, please fill out and send this form.
Futeral & Nelson 843-284-5500 1004 Anna Knapp Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
If you'd like for us to send you an email when the book is updated, please fill out and send this form.
Futeral & Nelson 843-284-5500 1004 Anna Knapp Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
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Futeral & Nelson 843-284-5500 1004 Anna Knapp Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
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Futeral & Nelson 843-284-5500 1004 Anna Knapp Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
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Futeral & Nelson 843-284-5500 1004 Anna Knapp Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
If you'd like for us to send you an email when the book is updated, please fill out and send this form.
Futeral & Nelson 843-284-5500 1004 Anna Knapp Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
If you'd like for us to send you an email when the book is updated, please fill out and send this form.
Futeral & Nelson 843-284-5500 1004 Anna Knapp Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
If you'd like for us to send you an email when the book is updated, please fill out and send this form.
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Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
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South Carolina’s Child Restraint Laws

  • South Carolina's Seat Belt and Child Restraint Laws

Like many other states, South Carolina has child restraint laws to address concerns over children who may get injured in a traffic accident. South Carolina’s child passenger safety (child restraint) laws apply to motor vehicles including passenger cars, pickup trucks, vans, or recreational vehicles. Last year, South Carolina changed its laws and made changes to the weight and the position of a child required to be in a passenger restraint system. Additionally, South Carolina changed the laws regarding booster seats, the position of the booster seat, and the age and the height limitations for children in boosters. These laws and last year’s changes can be confusing. In this article, we break down and explain South Carolina’s child passenger safety laws including the penalties for violating these laws.

South Carolina’s Seatbelt Law Children 8 Years Old and Older (and Adults)

In South Carolina, the driver and every occupant of a motor vehicle being operated on a public street must wear a fastened safety belt. The driver is responsible for requiring each occupant seventeen years of age or younger to wear a safety belt or be secured in a child restraint system if applicable unless the occupant under 17 has his or her beginner’s permit or driver’s license. There are a few exceptions to this rule including:

  1. People with valid medical reasons,
  2. School, church, or daycare buses,
  3. Public transportation vehicles except for taxis,
  4. Occupants of vehicles in parades,
  5. Occupants for which no safety belt is available because all belts are being used by other occupants, and
  6. Drivers or occupants in a vehicle not originally equipped with safety belts.

Penalty for Violating South Carolina’s Seatbelt Law for Adults and Children 8 Years Old and Older

In South Carolina, the fine for a seat belt citation is $25. However, the violation is not criminal and puts no points on your license.

South Carolina’s Child Passenger Safety Laws for Children Under 8 Years Old

Any child restraint system of a type sufficient to meet the physical standards prescribed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) at the time of its manufacture is sufficient to meet the requirements of this article. Check the manufacturer’s specs when you buy a car seat.

NOTE: For each of the rules below, any portion of a recreational vehicle that is equipped with temporary living quarters is considered a “rear passenger seat.” 

Restraints for Children Under Two Years Old

If a child is not too big for a baby car seat, a child under 2 years of age must be properly secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system (fancy term for a baby car seat) in a rear seat of the vehicle. Any portion of a recreational vehicle that is equipped with temporary living quarters is considered a “rear passenger seat.” After a child exceeds the height and weight limit allowed by the manufacturer, then go to the next section down.

Restraints for Children Under Two Years Old Who Exceed the Child Seat Manufacturer’s Height & Weight Limits

Children under 2 who are too big (either too tall, too heavy, or both) for a baby car seat must be secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system with a harness in a rear passenger seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the highest height or weight requirements of the forward-facing child passenger restraint system. Any portion of a recreational vehicle that is equipped with temporary living quarters is considered a “rear passenger seat.”

Restraints for Children Between Two and Four Years Old

If a child is not too big for a forward-facing car seat, as determined by the manufacturer’s specifications, a child between two and four years old must be secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system with a harness in a rear passenger seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the highest height or weight requirements of the forward-facing child passenger restraint system.

Restraints for Children Between Two and Four Years Old Who Exceed the Child Seat Manufacturer’s Height & Weight Limits

In our opinion, the law as written is not exactly clear as to what to do in this scenario. We recommend that the safest approach is probably to secure the child in the most restrictive child seat that meets the child’s height and weight limitations.

Restraints for Children Over Four Years Old Who Haven’t Outgrown the Child Seat Manufacturer’s Height & Weight Limits

The law as written actually appears to have left this scenario out. We recommend that the safest approach is probably to secure the child in the most restrictive child seat that meets the child’s height and weight limitations.

Children Over Four Years Old Who Have Outgrown the Forward-Facing Child Passenger Restraint System

Children over four who have outgrown the forward-facing child seat must be secured by a belt-positioning booster seat in a rear seat of the vehicle. The belt-positioning booster seat must be used with both lap and shoulder belts. Using just the lap belt is against the law. Any portion of a recreational vehicle that is equipped with temporary living quarters is considered a “rear passenger seat.”

Children Over Eight or At Least Fifty-Seven Inches (4′ 9″) Tall

If the child is either 8 years old or the child is at least 4′ 9″, then the child can use a normal adult seat belt. The seat belt must do each of the following:

  1. Fit across the child’s thighs and hips and NOT across the abdomen.
  2. Cross the center of the child’s chest and NOT cross the neck.
  3. Allow the child to sit with his or her back straight against the vehicle seat back cushion with his or her knees bent over the seat edge without slouching.

Restraints for Vehicles with No Rear Seat

If a vehicle has no rear seat, such as a two-seat roadster, then you can transport a child under 8 in the front seat so long as you are using the right type of car seat or booster seat for that child.

Medical Exceptions to South Carolina’s Child Restraint Laws

If you get a letter from your child’s doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, you might be able to be exempt from the standard rules.

Vehicular Exceptions to South Carolina’s Child Restraint Laws

The following drivers and vehicles are not subject to the child seat laws described above:

  1. Taxi drivers (it is unclear under South Carolina’s statute whether Uber and Lyft fall under this exception).
  2. Drivers of emergency vehicles when operating in an emergency situation.
  3. Church, daycare, and school bus drivers.
  4. Public transportation operators.
  5. Commercial vehicles.

Penalty for Violating South Carolina’s Child Passenger Safety Laws for Children Under 8 Years Old

People who violate these laws described above can be fined up to $150. Additionally, it is possible that a parent or guardian could be investigated by the Department of Social Services for endangering the life of a child. Get More Information Regarding DSS Investigations in South Carolina.

South Carolina’s Laws for Transporting Children Under the Age of 15 Years Old in an Open Bed or Open Cargo of a Pick-Up Truck or Trailer

Generally, it is illegal to transport a child under 15 years old in the open bed or open cargo area of a pickup truck or trailer UNLESS

  1. An adult is present in the bed or cargo area and is supervising the child,
  2. The child is secured or restrained by a seat belt manufactured in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, installed to support a load of not less than five thousand pounds for each belt, and of a type approved by the Department of Public Safety,
  3. An emergency situation exists,
  4. The vehicle is being operated in an organized hayride or parade with a valid permit,
  5. The vehicle is being operated while hunting or in an agricultural enterprise,
  6. The vehicle is being operated in a county which has no incorporated area with a population greater than three thousand five hundred, or
  7. The vehicle has a closed metal tailgate and is being operated less than thirty-six miles an hour.

Penalties for Violating South Carolina’s Laws for Transporting Children Under the Age of 15 Years Old in an Open Bed or Open Cargo of a Pick-Up Truck or Trailer

A person who breaks this law can be charged with a misdemeanor and receive a fine of $25. Additionally, it is possible that a parent or guardian could be investigated by the Department of Social Services for endangering the life of a child. Get More Information Regarding DSS Investigations in South Carolina.

Getting Legal Help for Child Restraint Violations in South Carolina

For the safety of yourself and younger passengers, we hope that the information we’ve shared answers all of your questions about South Carolina’s seatbelt laws. For the most part, violation of these laws is a minor infraction for which you probably don’t need a lawyer. However, if you are a parent or a guardian and you face an investigation by DSS for endangering a child, then you should retain the services of a family law attorney to help you. Our lawyers have years of experience dealing with DSS cases, so please contact us if you need help.

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