As part of the South Dakota car seat laws, licensed drivers are responsible for all vehicle occupants who are younger than 17 years of age. As part of these laws, all child occupants must wear an adult seat belt, sit in the rear of a motor vehicle or use an approved car or booster seat. If motorists operate a vehicle without restraining their children, then they will need to pay a penalty fee.

Under these car and booster seat laws, children must use a properly fitted rear- or forward-facing seat, depending on their specific height and weight. In most cases, rear-facing seats are ideal for infants and babies, while forward-facing seats are best for toddlers who outgrow their first car seat. However, most infants need a rear-facing seat until they turn one or reach 20 pounds in weight. To learn more about car seat safety, review the information below.

What are the car seat laws in South Dakota?

The South Dakota car seat law was first enacted on July 1, 2001. As part of these child car seat laws, all motor vehicle passengers who are 17 years of age or younger must wear a seat belt. Additionally:

  • Children who are younger than five years of age and weigh less than 40 pounds must use an approved safety seat. While car seat weight and height restrictions vary by product, various types of restraints include rear- or forward-facing seats and boosters.
  • Infants who are younger than one year of age and weigh less than 20 pounds must sit in a rear-facing seat. A rear facing car seat is often known as an infant or baby seat.
  • Children who are at least eight years of age may use an adult seat belt if they are tall enough to sit with their back against the vehicle’s cushion and their knees bent over the seat. In most cases, children can wear an adult seat belt once they reach four foot nine inches tall. Additionally, the seat belt should rest comfortably across their chest, with the lap belt against their upper thighs. However, many children who are between eight and 12 years of age continue to use a booster seat.
  • Children who are younger than 12 years of age must sit in the back seat of a motor vehicle. According to the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS), children are safest in a vehicle’s rear middle seat.

Note: To increase child car seat safety in SD, the state’s Child Safety Seat Distribution Program provides low-income families with free car or booster seats. Additionally, families with children with disabilities or special needs may obtain free safety seats through this program. To learn more about the program, South Dakota residents may contact the DSS.

Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations in South Dakota

If motorists violate the car seat requirements in South Dakota, then they will need to pay a $25 fine from an issued traffic ticket. While the violation is a petty offense, additional consequences of not using an appropriately fitted car seat may include severe injury or even death in the event of an auto accident.

Types of Car Seats

As part of the car and booster seat guidelines in South Dakota, most children need to use some type of safety seat until they turn eight years of age. However, many children require a booster seat until they turn 12 years of age or can comfortably use an adult seat belt. The safest car seats for children include:

  • A rear facing car seat for babies between birth and one year of age. Rear-facing seats are available as infant, convertible and three-in-one models. While infant seats must face the rear of a motor vehicle, three-in-one or convertible seats may face the front or back of a car or truck.
  • A rear- or forward- facing seat for children between one and three years of age. When children outgrow their rear-facing seat, they may use a forward-facing restraint with a hardness.
  • A forward facing car seat with a harness for children between four and seven years of age. Once children reach the maximum height and weight recommendation for their specific car restraint, they may upgrade to a booster seat.
  • A booster seat for children who are between eight and 12 years of age. Once children are tall enough to ride without a booster seat, they may use an adult seat belt.

Furthermore, many of the best car seats for infants are available from well-known brands such as Baby Trend, Britax and Cybex. For instance, the Baby Trend Inertia rear-facing seat fits infants who weigh between five and 32 pounds, while the Britax B-Safe 35 Elite rear-facing seat is ideal for babies who weigh between four and 35 pounds. Moreover, the Cybex Aton Q rear-facing seat also fits babies who weigh between four and 35 pounds.

As for forward-facing car seats, top-rated models include the Britax Advocate ClickTight, Graco 4Ever and the Graco Milestone. Top-rated booster seats include the Baby Trend PROtect Yumi Folding Booster, Cybex Solution X-Fix and the Graco Turbo TakeAlong Backless Booster.

Car Seat Installation Information

While the car seat installation process varies by product type and manufacturer, the following tips can help to simplify the process:

  • Install rear-facing infant seats at a slight recline
  • Secure harness clips for rear- or front-facing seats at armpit level
  • Secure harness straps for rear-facing infant seats at or below the child’s shoulders
  • Tighten lap straps for booster seats along the child’s upper thigh area, with the shoulder strap across the shoulder and chest
  • If a forward-facing seat contains a tether strap, then connect it to the vehicle’s tether anchor

To learn more about car seat installations, motorists must refer to their vehicle’s ownership manual as well as the instructions that came with their car or booster seat.

Last updated on Wednesday, September 23 2020.