Select Page

South Carolina Car Seat Laws

A Summary of Child Car Seat Laws in South Carolina

Car Seat Laws as they apply to the state of South Carolina

  • The law in South Carolina requires all infants under age 2 to be secured in a rear-facing seat.
  • All children 2 years or older or those under 2 years who have outgrown rear-facing seats should be secured in a forward-facing seat.
  • The law requires children at least 4 years old who have outgrown the forward-facing seat requirements to ride on a belt-positioning booster seat until they are at least 8 years old or 57 inches tall.
  • Children should remain in the back seat until age 13.

Rear-facing Car Seat Laws in South Carolina

The law in South Carolina requires all infants under age 2 to be secured in a rear-facing seat in the back seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the weight and height limits set by the manufacturer. There are two main types of rear-facing seats – infant-only and convertible seats. Infant-only seats are perfect for newborns and smaller infants. However, due to their lower weight limit (30-35 pounds), children usually outgrow them within a short period of time and then switch to convertible seats. Children can remain in convertibles until age 4 since the seats can accommodate more weight (up to 40 pounds). The rear-facing position is considered the safest because the seat cradles the baby’s neck, head, and spine in the event of an accident. So children should remain in this position for as long as possible. Rear-facing seats should always face the rear of the car and be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Forward-Facing Car Seat Laws in South Carolina

The law requires all children 2 years or older or those under 2 years but have outgrown rear-facing seats to be secured in a forward-facing seat with a harness until the child exceeds the seat’s height and weight requirements. Convertible seats can be turned around to face forward once the child has outgrown the rear-facing position. Parents can also opt for forward-facing only seats if a convertible seat is not available. The harness straps should be secured over the child’s body. They should snugly lie across the shoulder and hips. This helps in spreading the crash forces across the stronger parts of the body and away from the vital and fragile areas such as the neck, spine, and head. Children can safely remain in a forward-facing seat until age 7 due to their higher weight limits (up to 65 pounds).

Booster Seat Regulations in South Carolina

The law requires children at least 4 years old who have outgrown the forward-facing seat requirements to ride on a belt-positioning booster seat installed in the rear of the vehicle until the child is at least 8 years old or 57 inches tall. The law also states that booster seats must be used with lap-shoulder belts and not lap-only belts. A booster seat lifts a child so that regular safety belts can fit properly over the child’s body. The lap belt should lie flat across the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt should snugly go across the middle of the chest. The straps should never ride up on the neck or stomach as this can sever the child’s internal organs in case of a frontal impact. Parents can choose different types of booster seats, depending on their needs. High-back booster seats support a child’s head and neck when there are no headrests in the back seats, while backless booster seats are preferable if the vehicle’s headrest can properly support the child. When it comes to graduating to safety belts, it is important to focus on the child’s height even though the law provides an age guideline. This is because anyone shorter than 57 inches may not fit in seat belts because they are designed for people who are of the same height or taller. The law says a seat belt ready child should be able to sit with his or her back straight against the back of the seat and with knees bent at the edge of the seat without slouching. The lap belts should also lie across the hips and thighs, and the shoulder belt shoulder belts should cross the center of the child’s chest.

Requirements for children to use the front seat in South Carolina

In South Carolina, your child can sit in the front if he or she is 8 years old or 57 inches tall (requirements for safety belts). However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should remain in the back seat until age 13 because it is much safer than the front seat. In instances where the car does not have rear seats or if all the rear seats are occupied by children younger than 8 years, the law allows children under age 8 to be restrained in the front seat with the appropriate child restraint device.

Law on leaving a child in a car in South Carolina

It is considered an offense to leave a child younger than 7 years unsupervised inside a vehicle. Exceptions apply if the child is being supervised by someone at least 13 years of age. We do not recommend leaving your child alone in a vehicle for any length of time.

Law on Smoking in a car with a child in South Carolina

There are no laws regarding smoking in a car with child passengers. We do not recommend smoking in your vehicle while children are present.

Car Seat Law Exemptions in South Carolina

Commercial vehicles such as taxis are not exempted from complying with the state’s car seat laws. Children can be exempted as long as they have medical issues that have been confirmed in writing by a certified physician, however the child has to use a child restraint device that is designed for his or her medical needs.

Law on Car Seat Replacement in South Carolina

The state does not have a law that covers the replacement of car seats. Car seats should be replaced after a moderate or major car crash. This is because car seats can develop cracks after an impact that makes them unsuitable for use. Also, check your seat’s expiry date and replace it if it is due.

More South Carolina Laws