Parents and caregivers transporting children in motor vehicles in the State of North Carolina need to be aware of North Carolina car seat laws. Failure to comply with the laws can result in fees and driver points, if convicted of a violation.

What’s involved in the North Carolina car seat laws? Here’s a rundown, with facts from the North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Research Center:

Restraint Type Required and Where

Children under the age of eight and weighing less than 80 pounds must be properly restrained using a child restraint device (CRD).

According to the North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Research Center, most parents will be able to fulfill this requirement by using belt-positioning car booster seats for their children weighing between 40 and 80 pounds. Keep in mind that the booster seat must meet Federal requirements and the child must be within the weight range for the child restraint or booster seat.

Under North Carolina car seat laws, a child that is eight years old, regardless of weight, or at 80 pounds, regardless of age, may be restrained using a properly fitted seat belt.

If no seat position equipped with a lap and shoulder belt to properly secure a child restraint or booster seat is available, a child weighing at least 40 pounds may be restrained with a properly fitted lap belt only. This does not, however, apply to belt-positioning booster seats, which must be used only with lap and shoulder combination safety belts.

As for where the restraints are required to be used, the North Carolina car seat laws stipulate that the child restraint device must be installed in the rear seat of the vehicle if the child is less than five years old and 40 pounds and if the vehicle has a passenger side airbag and a rear seat.

The front seat may be used for installation of a child restraint device only if it is designed for use with airbags.

Exemptions, Fines and Penalties

There are a few exemptions to the North Carolina car seat laws. These include:

  • Ambulances and other emergency vehicles
  • If all seating positions with belts are occupied
  • Vehicles not required to have seat belts (such as passenger cars manufactured before 1968 and pickup trucks, SUVs and vans built before 1972, and buses)

Fines and penalties assessed upon conviction of violation of the North Carolina law include a fine not to exceed $25, $188 in court costs (as of October 1, 2010), and two driver license points (but no insurance points). There will be no conviction if the child is less than eight years old and proof that an appropriate child restraint device or booster seat has been acquired for the vehicle that the child normally rides in is presented at trial.

Also check out the Safety Research Center’s guidelines on options for children weighing over 40 pounds and answers to other questions on Choosing and Using Child Restraints.  Find information on NHTSA’s car seat ratings, and register your car seat to receive notification of any defects and safety recalls.

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