In a car crash, a car seat or seat belt can prevent serious injuries.
It can make the difference between life and death.
That’s why it’s SUPER important.
And that’s why you MUST obey the South Carolina car seat laws and seat belt law.
But what does the law say?
Let’s go over everything you need to know.
Car Seat Laws in South Carolina
Children 8 years old and below are required to be in the proper restraint device. This can be a car seat, booster seat, or a well-fitted seat belt.
The law specifies it further, stating that:
- Children below 2 years old have to be in rear-facing car seats. It’s highly recommended that children continue using a rear-facing car seat until they outgrow the seat manufacturer’s height and weight limits.
- Children 2-4 years old have to be in a front-facing car seat. Again, it’s recommended to keep using it until they exceed the height and weight limits of the restraint system.
- Children 4-8 years old who have already outgrown their front-facing car seat can be placed in a booster seat.
- Children at least 8 years old or who are at least 57 inches tall can use the adult seat belt — as long as the seat belt perfectly fits the child’s body.
Additionally, child restraint systems should be placed at the back of the vehicle.
However, if there are no more rear seats available, the child can be seated in front as long as they are in the right car seat.
Are there any exceptions?
If a child has a medical reason that prevents them from using a car seat, the parent should have a medical restriction written by the child’s physician or advanced nurse practitioner.
This written document should also be inside the vehicle to show any police officer that pulls you over.
Also, car seats are not required in public transportation, such as taxis, school buses, shuttles, etc.
Car Seat Penalties in South Carolina
In South Carolina, the car seat laws are primary enforcement.
This means a police officer can stop you if they spot a child without the proper restraint.
Now, the responsibility of placing a child in the right car seat falls on the driver.
So even if you’re not the parent, you will be the one fined.
As for the penalty, this will be a $150 traffic ticket fine.
You can dismiss this penalty if you show proof that you already purchased a car seat and are just waiting for it.
South Carolina Seat Belt Law
In South Carolina, everyone in the vehicle is required to wear a seat belt.
Yes, even if you’re in the back seat, you still have to wear a seat belt.
But there are exemptions to this law:
- If you have a written medical document from a physician stating that you are unable to wear a seat belt.
- If you are part of a medical or rescue team attending to sick or injured individuals in an emergency vehicle.
- Occupants of school, church, or daycare buses.
- Public vehicles (taxis, buses).
- Occupants of vehicles participating in parades.
- US mail carriers.
- Occupants that do not have a seat belt because all other safety belts have been used by other occupants in the vehicle.
- A driver of a vehicle that doesn’t originally have seat belts installed.
Seat Belt Penalties in South Carolina
In December 2005, the State of South Carolina changed the seat belt law from secondary enforcement to primary.
Before, police officers needed to have another reason to pull you over.
Now, if a police officer sees you or someone in the vehicle not wearing a seat belt, you can be stopped and ticketed for this reason alone.
If you are caught violating the seat belt law, you will be fined $25 to $50 per offense.
But who pays the fine?
If the occupant not wearing a seat belt is 17 and below, the driver will be the one fined.
However, if the occupant not wearing a seat belt has a beginner’s permit or a special restricted license, then they will be the ones fined.
Anyone above 17 years old will have to pay their own fines.
What about airbags?
Can it replace seat belts?
The common misconception is that airbags work the same way as seat belts — if you have an airbag, you don’t need to wear a seat belt.
Airbags only provide a cushion so that you don’t directly hit the dashboard. It also reduces the impact you might get when hitting the front or side of the car.
But for airbags to do their job, you have to be in the right place.
I mean, what can an airbag do if you’re thrown out of the vehicle?
This is where seat belts come in.
These help you stay in your place so that your body doesn’t get tossed or thrown out of the vehicle.
When you’re in place, you will be able to hit the airbag perfectly.
Now, while this is true for adults, airbags are not safe for children.
NEVER place car seats in front of airbags. The impact might injure very young children.
If you’re worried about the child’s head hitting – don’t be. The car seat has its own protection for that.
That was everything you needed to know about South Carolina car seat laws and seat belt law.
Remember, these laws are there to keep everyone safe.
Even if you’re the safest driver out there, there’s no certainty that an accident won’t happen.
So go and make sure your child is in the proper child restraint system.
And, no matter how inconvenient it may seem, always wear your seat belt — even if you’re just going out on a 5-minute trip to the store.
Again, this can make the difference between life and death.
It can also help you avoid paying inconvenient penalty fines.
Be a responsible driver and buckle up!
It’s better to be safe than sorry.