Traffic Safety Laws in North Carolina

Before you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle in North Carolina, make sure you know the state's safety laws for both drivers and passengers.

What are the Seat Belt Laws in North Carolina?

To protect all individuals during transportation, the use of a safety belt is mandatory for the driver and all passengers in North Carolina, regardless of age.

Responsibility for enforcing this in the vehicle is as follows:

  • The driver is responsible for the proper use of a safety belt for all passengers under 16 years old, and will be cited if these passengers are found not to be wearing one.
  • Passengers 16 years old and older are held responsible themselves for safety belt use, and will receive their own violations if they are found not to be wearing a set belt.

The use of seat belts is a primary law in North Carolina. This means that law enforcement may stop individuals if a violation is observed, without needing any other type of infraction to be committed concurrently.

NC Child Car Seats Laws

For children of a certain age, weight, or height, the use of a child safety seat may be required by law.

In North Carolina, the law is as follows:

  • A child safety seat or booster seat is required for children who:
    • Are under 8 years old.
    • Weigh under 80 lbs.
  • A standard seat belt may be used for children who:
    • Are at least 8 years old.
    • Weigh at least 80 lbs.—whichever comes first.
      • To discontinue the use of a booster seat, the shoulder belt must fit the child properly across the chest.

Keep in mind that a child's weight and height will dictate whether or not a child safety seat should be rear-facing. Because of the risk of injury during the deployment of an air bag, you should never place a rear facing seat in the front seat of a vehicle.

To ensure your child is properly secured, always use a child safety seat in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

Electronic Devices & Texting While Driving in North Carolina

In North Carolina, there are restrictions in place preventing the use of electronic devices for some drivers.

  • Drivers under 18 years old are prohibited from using wireless communication or electronic devices of any kind.
    • This includes “other technology," such as digital cameras, music devices, or devices with Internet gaming capabilities.
  • Reading, typing, and sending text messages is illegal for all drivers while operating a motor vehicle.

These laws are excepted if you need to use your phone to contact:

  • Emergency response teams.
  • The fire department.
  • Law enforcement officials.
  • Medical professionals.

Otherwise, violation of these offenses could result in fines and additional punishment.

As cell phone use is the leading cause of distracted driving fatalities, it is crucial for all drivers to do their part to end this epidemic. For information on how you can help, check out our section on distracted driving, and take the pledge to keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

Headlight Laws in North Carolina

Headlights must be turned on:

  • Between sunset and sunrise.
  • When visibility is reduced to 400 feet or less.
  • Whenever your windshield wipers are in use. 
High beams can reflect off the fog and decrease visibility; it is best to use low beams and the defroster to increase visibility.

North Carolina Window Tinting Laws

Window tint and other sun screening devices are allowed in North Carolina so long as you meet the required guidelines.

  • Tint that is red, amber, or yellow in color is not permitted.
  • For all side and rear windows:
    • A light transmittance of 35% or more is required.
    • A light reflectance of no more than 20% is required.
  • For the windshield:
    • Tint must stop 5 inches below the top portion of the windshield.

Some vehicles may be exempt from window tinting restrictions, including:

  • For-hire vehicles.
  • Motor homes.
  • Ambulances.
  • Limousines.
  • Law enforcement vehicles.

Unattended Children & Pets

No current North Carolina laws or penalties specifically address unattended children or pets. However, because of the risk of injury during extreme weather conditions, leaving a child or pet unattended in your vehicle could lead to prosecution.

In addition, North Carolina does have a bill in place allowing firefighters and other emergency responders to enter a vehicle if it is determined that a child or animal is at risk.

If you see an unattended child or pet that may be in a dangerous situation, please contact your local law enforcement.

Helmets Laws in North Carolina

Helmet laws are currently in place for operators of motorcycles, mopeds, and bicyclists in North Carolina.

For motorcycles and mopeds, all operators and passengers regardless of age must wear a helmet at all times while riding, and those helmets must comply with federal motor vehicle safety standards.

For bicyclists, riders under 16 years old are also required to use a federally-approved safety helmet.

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