South Carolina Seat Belt Laws Explained

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According to the CDC, seat belts are the best way to protect yourself in a car crash. Wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of death by 45% for front-seat vehicle occupants.

Source: CDC, Policy Impact: Seat Belts

While all states have seat belt laws, they vary by state. Let’s discuss seat belt laws in South Carolina.

Current Seat Belt Laws in South Carolina

Generally, all vehicle occupants must wear a seat belt when they are in an operating vehicle on a public street or highway. There is no age exception and no exception for people riding in the back seat.

Are Seat Belts Mandatory in South Carolina?

Seat belts are mandatory for all vehicle drivers and occupants in South Carolina. There are limited exceptions for certain mass transit vehicles and vehicles not originally fitted with safety belts. In general, everyone must wear a seat belt.

What’s the Law for Seat Belts in South Carolina?

The law for seat belts in South Carolina is Title 56 – Motor Vehicles, Chapter 5, Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways, Article 48, Safety Belts. Section 56-5-6520 states that every driver and occupant of a motor vehicle must wear a safety belt while the vehicle is operated on a public street or highway.

What Is the Penalty for a Seat Belt Violation in South Carolina?

A person violating seat belt laws in South Carolina may be fined up to $25. Court costs and surcharges may not be assessed. The total fine may not exceed $50 per occurrence even if they are responsible for multiple violators in the vehicle.

Exceptions to Seat Belt Laws in South Carolina

Exceptions to seat belt laws in South Carolina include:

  • Having a written doctor’s note that you can’t wear a seatbelt for physical or medical reasons
  • Emergency responders in an emergency vehicle and in an emergency situation
  • The injured or sick who are being transported in an emergency vehicle
  • Public transit (seatbelt laws apply in taxis)
  • School buses
  • Church and daycare buses
  • U.S. postal carriers
  • People riding in a parade
  • If there is no seatbelt because they’re all already in use by others in the vehicle
  • When a vehicle didn’t originally have seat belts

Is a Seatbelt Violation a Primary or Secondary Offense in South Carolina?

A seatbelt violation is a primary offense in South Carolina. Law enforcement may stop you if they suspect you’re not wearing a seat belt, even if there’s no sign that you’re violating any other law. You may receive a ticket for just the seat belt violation without any other offenses included.

Source: South Carolina Department of Public Safety, SC Safety belt Law

Is Failing to Wear a Seat Belt a Crime in South Carolina?

No. Failing to wear a seat belt is a civil offense in South Carolina. It is not a crime.

(See S.C. Code § 65-6-6540)

Can You Get Arrested for Failing to Wear a Seat Belt in South Carolina?

A custodial arrest is not allowed for failing to wear a seat belt in South Carolina. Law enforcement may make an arrest for other offenses that occur at the same time. A court may order a bench warrant for failing to appear in court or failure to pay a fine.

Do You Have to Wear a Seat Belt in the Back Seat in South Carolina?

Seatbelts are mandatory in the back seat in South Carolina. You must wear a seatbelt no matter where you sit in a vehicle in South Carolina.

Who is Responsible for Enforcing the Use of Seat Belts in a Vehicle?

The driver is responsible for seeing that everyone under 17 in their vehicle is wearing a seat belt. If an occupant under 17 has a license or a learner’s permit, that person must ensure that they are wearing their seat belt.

Do You Get Points on Your License for a Seat Belt Violation in South Carolina?

There are no points assessed for a seat belt violation in South Carolina. (S.C. Code § 56-5-6550).

Failing to Wear a Seat Belt and South Carolina Car Accident Claims

Can failing to wear a seat belt be used to reduce damages in a car accident claim in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, failing to wear a seat belt does not reduce the amount of compensation for a car accident victim. S.C. Code § 56-5-6540 says that a violation of the state seat belt law is not negligence per se or contributory negligence. In fact, the failure to wear the seat belt is not admissible as evidence at all in a car accident claim.

Why isn’t a seat belt violation comparative negligence in a South Carolina car accident claim?

South Carolina law explicitly says that a seat belt violation is not grounds to reduce compensation for a car accident victim. Both before and after the law went into effect, the South Carolina courts stated that failing to wear a seat belt can’t be admitted to show comparative negligence or that compensation should be reduced for a car accident victim. (See Keaton v. Pearson, 358 S.E.2d 141 (S.C. 1987); Sims v. Gregory, Jr., Op. No. 4649 (S.C. Ct. App. 2010)).

Lawyers for Car Accident Claims

The Upstate Personal Injury Lawyers, LLC handle car accident claims – both simple and complex claims. If you were in a car accident and you weren’t wearing your seat belt, it shouldn’t impact your compensation. The insurance company shouldn’t even be able to bring it up at your trial.

We are experienced in handling car accident claims. We can make sure that you are treated fairly, and that the laws are correctly applied to your case.

If you have been in a car accident, you may deserve compensation. Our lawyers can represent you throughout your claim.

Contact us today for a consultation and to start your case.

Get in touch via phone, fax, email, or alternatively send us a message via our contact form located on the contact page.

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