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HomePrograms > Buckle Buddies > Car Seat Guidelines

Car Seat Guidelines

South Carolina's Child Passenger Restraint Law requires that:

  • An infant under 2 years old must be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat in a rear seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat.
  • A child at least 2 or under 2 (who has outgrown the manufacturer’s height or weight limits for a rear-racing seat) must be secured in a forward-facing car seat in a rear seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the highest height or weight requirements of the forward-facing car seat. 
  • Children at least 4 years old who have outgrown their forward-facing car seats must be secured by a booster seat in a rear seat of the vehicle until the child can meet the height and fit requirements for an adult safety seat belt. Lap and shoulder belts must be used. 
  • A child at least 8 years old or at least 57 inches tall may be restrained by an adult safety belt if the child can be secured properly by an adult safety belt.
  • Violators are subject to a $150 fine, plus additional court costs.

For more information about keeping your child safe, visit www.safekids.org or www.buckleupsc.com.

Child Passenger Safety Recommendations, as supported by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, American Academy of Pediatrics and Safe Kids Worldwide:

Infant child passenger safety tips

Rear facing: Keep children rear-facing until they max out the height or weight limit of their rear-facing seat. After the child grows out of the infant seat (generally 20-30 pounds) they need to be in a rear-facing convertible seat (generally rear-facing up to 35-45 pounds). The child should remain rear-facing until they max out the height or weight limit (whichever comes first for the specific child) of their rear facing seat. The weight and height requirements are on the label of each seat and also in the manual.

Toddler and preschool age child passenger safety tips

Rear or forward facing: Children should only move to a forward-facing seat after they max out the height or weight limit of their rear-facing child safety seat. By South Carolina law, this must be after the child weighs at least 20 pounds AND is 1 year old. Children should be in a forward-facing seat with harness up to at least 40 pounds, or as long as they are within the height and weight limit of their specific car seat. Some convertible car seat models have internal harness weight limits up to 70 pounds. The lower anchors installed in most vehicles are only safety tested and recommended for use up to 44 pounds, so if you have a seat that goes beyond that, it needs to be installed using the seat belt. Refer to your vehicle manufacturer for specific weight guidelines.

Big kids and elementary school age child passenger safety tips

Booster Seats: It is recommended that children move into a booster after they exceed the height or weight limit of the forward-facing seat. Children should stay in their boosters until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and weigh at least 80 pounds. Children should start with a high-back booster that moves the shoulder-belt into position on the body. Children can move to a low-back booster if the vehicle has proper head restraints and the shoulder-belt fits properly on the body.

LATCH and top tethers

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. All new car seats come with latch straps and clips that allow you to use this method of installation if it’s available in your vehicle. Vehicles manufactured in 2002 and after are required by law to offer LATCH anchors in two or more seating positions in the vehicle. Always check your owner’s manual (car seat and vehicle) to review installation guidelines and follow their directions, including what seating positions are approved for what installation methods. Car seats also can be installed in vehicles using the seat belt. LATCH anchors typically have lower weight limits so it is best to be familiar with both installation methods as most families are required to use the LATCH system and later the seat belt at some point during their child's car seat days.

Top tethers are most commonly used for Forward Facing Car Seats. They restrict the forward movement of your child's seat in the event of a frontal collision. Top tethers are often over looked when parents turn their children around to face forward but they are extremely important in the safety of your child in a vehicle. Top tethers are located in many different spots of various vehicles so refer to your owner’s manual to find out what seating positions in your vehicle come with top tether anchors and where you should attach your tether strap per safety test guidelines.

Other child passenger safety tips

  • Have your car seat checked by a nationally certified child passenger safety technician! We can help you understand the best way for your car seat and your vehicle to work together.  

  • Always read your vehicle owners guide before installing a car seat in your car. The info in the child passenger safety section lets you know what locations in the car are OK to use for car seats and what restraint is recommended based on the safety testing of that car. Follow manufacturers' instructions for car seats, booster seats and vehicle safety at all times.
  • Every child on every ride must use a car seat, booster seat or safety belt that's right for his or her weight and height.
  • All children under age 13 should ride in a back seat. 
  • Know where the airbags are in your vehicles. They can be in the front seat, on the roofline or in a back seat. Some airbags can be turned off. This can affect car seat placement in your vehicle.
  • Do not allow your child to ride in vehicles where drivers or passengers do not use safety restraints. 
  • Don't share safety belts. Use one safety belt for each person in the car. Never let children ride on laps or in cargo areas or pickup truck beds.
  • Weigh and measure children often to be sure they are using the right safety device. 
  • Install car seats using a locked vehicle safety belt or LATCH system. Read and follow all labels and instructions.
  • Never use car seats purchased from yard sales, secondhand stores or flea markets. Avoid using products that do not come with your child seat. They are not crash-tested and may not allow the harness to work properly.

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