North Carolina Car Seat Laws
Car or booster seat laws in North Carolina apply to all children in the state who are younger than 16 years of age or weigh less than 80 pounds. These car seat laws pertain to all children who sit in front or back seats and meet this age or weight requirement, while the state’s Seat Belt Law applies to children and adults who are older than 16 years of age.
Once children turn eight years of age or reach 80 pounds in weight, however, they may restrain themselves using a seat belt rather than a car or booster seat.
As part of these NC car seat rules, parents may restrain their children in rear- or forward-facing seats (including booster seats), depending on the age and weight of the child. For instance, a child booster seat is usually suitable for children once they outgrow their forward- or rear-facing seats. To learn more about these laws, review the sections below.
What are the car seat laws in North Carolina?
Seat belt and car seat safety in North Carolina are important matters that are not taken lightly. However, the specifics of these laws vary depending on the age and weight of the child passenger. For instance, these car seat guidelines include the following for all cars manufactured after the year 1967 and vans or light trucks constructed after 1971:
- For children eight years of age or younger OR weighing less than 80 pounds, NC law requires that all children be seated in a passenger restraint system that is most appropriate for the child’s weight
- If children are five years of age or younger OR weigh less than 40 pounds, children must be secured in a rear seat if the passenger side of the vehicle contains an active air bag and the vehicle has a rear seat
- If children are younger than eight years of age and weigh between 40 and 80 pounds, they may use an appropriately-fitted lap belt if the seat does not allow for a lap and shoulder belt restraint system
- If child passengers are 16 years of age or older, they must abide by the state’s Seat Belt Law
Note: These child car seat safety requirements do not apply to children riding in exempt vehicles. For instance, vehicles exempt from these car or booster seat laws include cars that were constructed prior to 1967 and vans, large buses, SUVs or pickup trucks that were manufactured before 1971. Additionally, emergency vehicles or ambulances are exempt from meeting these requirements.
Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations in North Carolina
If motorists violate any child car seat laws in NC, they may be subject to penalty fees and the accumulation of driver’s license demerit points.
For instance, if a child is younger than 16 years of age and a driver violates the state’s child restraint laws, the motorist will need to pay a penalty fee of up to $25, along with full court costs of up to $263. Additionally, violators receive two NC driver’s license demerit points, but no additional insurance points.
Note: If motorists violate these NC car seat requirements and their child is younger than four years of age, they will not be convicted if they can present proof of installing a child restraint device during their trial.
Types of Car Seats
While North Carolina car seat regulations do not require the use of specific types of child restraint systems, parents must restrain their children in an appropriately-fitted car or booster seat, depending on their age or weight. For instance, several of the safest car seats for children include:
- A rear-facing seat is ideal for children who are two years of age or younger. Generally, these seats are best for children who weigh up to 35 pounds, including small babies and infants.
- A convertible car seat can face the front or rear of the car.These seats are ideal for children who weigh up to 45 pounds.
- A forward-facing seat is ideal for children who outgrow their rear-facing seats. In most cases, these seats are appropriate for children weighing between 40 and 90 pounds.
- A booster seat is the next type of restraint for children who outgrow their car seats. While booster seat weight requirements vary by manufacturer, children should ride in a booster seat until they can safely and comfortably use a seat belt.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the best infant car seat models include the 4moms Infant Seat, Baby Jogger Infant Seat and the Baby Trend EZ Flex. The best booster seats include the Baby Trend Protect Yumi Folding Booster, Carfoldio Mifold and the Cosco Topside. Several of the other best car seats include the Baby Trend Inertia, Baby Trend Protect Sport and Britax Advocate ClickTight.
Car Seat Installation Information
Properly installing a car seat in NC is an important part of meeting the state’s child restraint laws. For instance, a rear facing car seat must face the back of a vehicle, and the child’s head must sit more than one inch below the top of the seat.
A forward-facing seat faces the front of the vehicle, while convertible seats may face the front or back. When installing a front-facing seat, the top of the child’s ears must sit below the top of the seat.
When installing a child booster seat, children must ride with an appropriately-fitted lap and shoulder belt to secure them in place. However, the lap belt must sit below the child’s hips, and the shoulder belt must rest above the shoulder.
To obtain car seat installation assistance, residents who live in the Triangle may contact the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Additionally, Permanent Checking Stations (PCS) are available in counties throughout the state. At PCS locations, nationally-certified technicians can inspect car or booster seats for safety and provide parents or caregivers with additional information.