Child Passenger and Restraint Laws in South Carolina

South Carolina has important child restraint laws in place that are intended to protect the young from being injured in traffic accidents. In 2017, the state updated these laws in relation to the weight and positioning of children in safety seats and passenger restraint systems. Booster seat requirements have also been modified. If your child has been harmed by another driver’s negligence, you need an experienced South Carolina car accident attorney on your side.

The Statistics

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) shares that, although boosters and car seats provide additional protection for infants and young children in traffic accidents, car crashes remain a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. This is exactly why choosing (and using) a car seat that meets each of your children’s specific safety needs is paramount. Consider the following statistics:

  • Every year, the lives of about 325 children who are under the age of 5 are saved by car seats.
  • In 2018, 35 percent of those children who lost their lives in car accidents were not restrained.
  • About 45 percent of all car seats and boosters are not used correctly.

Rear-Facing Car Seats

Any child who has not yet reached the age of two must be restrained in a rear-facing car seat that is designated as a car seat for infants. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has dropped the age criterion and encourages parents to keep their children in these rear-facing seats as long as possible (based on height and weight limitations). AAP reminds parents that rear-facing seats are always the safest option – beginning the day you carry your little one home from the hospital. Finally, AAP shares that when the correct car seat or booster is used correctly, your child’s risk of being seriously injured (or worse) in a car accident is reduced by more than 70 percent.

Forward-Facing Car Seats

Children who are under the age of two but have outgrown the height and weight restrictions for their rear-facing car seats should be moved to forward-facing seats (and car seats and boosters of every type should always be secured safely in the back seat). While it is legal to move a child who has reached the age of two to a forward-facing car seat in the State of South Carolina, it isn’t the safest option and is, therefore, ill-advised. Your child should remain in his or her forward-facing car seat until he or she has exceeded either its height or weight limitations. Unless your child exceeds these limitations prior to turning four, the law requires that he or she be secured in a forward-facing car seat until his or her fourth birthday (at the earliest).

Rear-Facing Car Seats

Once your child is either too tall or too heavy for his or her forward-facing car seat (usually at around the age of four), it’s time to transition to a booster seat that has both a shoulder and lap belt. Once your child exceeds the height and weight limitations for his or her rear-facing car seat, he or she can transition to using the adult restraint system provided by your car’s seat belts. AAP reminds parents, however, that their children should ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old. 

Adult Seat Belts

Once your child is at about 57 inches tall, which typically occurs around the age of eight, he or she is ready to use your car’s adult seat belts as long as the following are true:

  • The shoulder belt crosses your child at chest level and does not cut across his or her neck.
  • The lap belt hugs your child’s hips and thighs and not his or her abdomen.
  • Your child can sit comfortably with his or her back against your car’s back seat cushion and with his or her knees bent over the edge of the seat without having to slouch.

Safety Tips

When it comes to car seats and child safety, the standards continue to evolve in response to research – and even to legal cases. Car seats are intended to protect children when they travel by car, and ensuring that your children are all secured in seats that comply with weight, height, and age requirements is critical. Keeping all the following safety tips in mind can help you protect your children:

  • Convertible seats help protect both infants and toddlers, and some allow you to keep your little ones in rear-facing positions for longer. It’s important not to move your child out of his or her car seat until he or she has reached the seat’s limitations.
  • Rear-facing seats should never be positioned in the deployment area of an airbag.
  • Your child is safer in the backseat.
  • It is imperative that you install your children’s car seat or booster correctly by using both your car’s owner manual and the car seat’s instructions.
  • Before transitioning your child to an adult seatbelt, make sure that both the lap and shoulder belt cross him or her safely and, if there is a fit concern, it’s time to do some more investigating. An attached harness can help.
  • Just like any other consumer good, car seats can be recalled. Fortunately, however, you can register yours with the manufacturer and with NHTSA, and they will keep you updated regarding any safety concerns or recalls in the works.

While your children’s safety is naturally your primary concern, not every motorist out there takes his or her responsibility to safety seriously enough, and your child can pay the terrible price.

If another driver’s negligence leaves your child injured in a car accident, the accomplished car accident attorneys at McCravy Law in South Carolina recognize the gravity of your situation and are committed to zealously pursuing just compensation that supports your child’s fullest recovery. To learn more about how we can help, please don’t wait to contact or call us at 864-388-9100 today.

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