Traffic Safety Laws in South Carolina

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Child Car Seat Laws

While riding in a vehicle, children under 8 years old need to be properly restrained by an approved child safety seat.

However, additional conditions apply:

  • Children under 2 years old must be in a rear-facing child safety seat in a rear passenger seat of the vehicle unless the child exceeds the manufacturer's weight or height limits.
  • Children 2 years old and over must be in a forward-facing child safety seat in a rear passenger seat until they exceed the manufacturer's weight and height limits.
  • Children at least 4 years old, must be in a belt-positioning booster seat in a rear passenger seat. Booster seats are required to use a lap and shoulder strap.
  • Children at least 8 years old or those at least 57 inches tall can use a seatbelt if:
    • The shoulder belt crosses the child's chest and not their head or neck.
    • The lap belt fits across the child's hips and thighs and not across their stomach.
    • The child is able to sit, without slouching, straight against the seat back with their knees bent over the seat edge.

All children under 8 years old must be in a rear passenger seat unless all rear seats are occupied by children under 8 years old or the vehicle does not have rear seats. Any child in the front passenger seat must be in the appropriate child safety seat for their age.

If you're in the market for one, you can shop online for a child car seat any time of day. Before ordering, make sure to read our How to Buy a Child Safety Seat article.

To ensure a safety seat has been properly installed, visit an Office of Highway Safety fitting station. For more information, call (877) 349-7187.

Seat Belts

With a few exceptions, everyone riding in a vehicle is required to wear a properly-fastened safety belt.

A police officer has the right to pull over a vehicle just because a rider was clearly observed not wearing a seat belt.

Drivers are responsible for ensuring that all passengers 17 years old and younger are properly secured. But, passengers 17 years old and younger who have their own driver's license, special restricted license, or beginner's permit, are responsible for their own conduct.

Drivers can be fined up to $25 per violation, up to a total of $50 per traffic stop. However, no points will be assessed for the offense.

Cell Phones and Texting

There is a statewide ban on writing, sending, or reading a text-based message for all drivers. The there is a minimum fee of $25.

Exceptions are made in certain cases, such as when the driver is:

  • Using a hands-free device. 
  • Calling for emergency assistance.
  • Using GPS/navigation.
  • An on-duty public safety officer.

Helmets

Anyone under 21 years old riding on a motorcycle must wear a helmet and wear protective goggles or a face shield.

Unattended Children

South Carolina doesn't have any statewide rules specifically addressing the issue of leaving children unattended in a vehicle. However, deliberately endangering a child is against the law.

Use common sense and know that children (or pets) left are subject to getting ill or dying from the temperature (hot or cold), kidnapping, and getting out of their seats and into mischief. If you see a child locked in a car in a dangerous situation, call 911 and stay with the car. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

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