Wearing a seat belt while in a vehicle, whether you are the driver or the passenger, can save you from life threatening injuries. The national seat belt use rate was 90.4% in 2021. 

While most Americans understand the importance of wearing a seat belt for safety, some people still choose not to wear them. In 2019, 47% of all passengers that were killed in car accidents were not wearing seat belts. In the same year, seat belts saved an average of 14,955 lives.

Is it Illegal to Ride Without a Seat Belt in South Carolina?

According to South Carolina law,  all passengers of a vehicle are required to wear a seat belt at all times. The only vehicles that are excluded from this law include emergency vehicles, public transportation vehicles, and school or church buses. Children must be properly secured in a restraint system, or you could be subject to a fine.

What Are the Consequences of Not Wearing a Seat Belt?

The fine for not wearing a seat belt is $25 for a first offense. The violation is not criminal and will not add points to your license. If you fail to pay your traffic ticket fine, the Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend or revoke your license.

Though the fine is low for this violation, it does not mean it is worth the risk. Neglecting to wear a seat belt is highly dangerous and it is much easier to buckle up than to risk your life. 

South Carolina Accident Statistics

Car accidents are extremely common around the country and should not be taken lightly. Passengers in South Carolina should take extra precaution with seat belt use and educate those around them. According to the CDC, the seat belt accident death rates in South Carolina are much higher than the national rates. 

Traffic collion and fatality rates have spiked in the last couple of years. Let’s take a look at some South Carolina traffic collion data from 2019 provided by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety:

Collision Statistics 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Fatal Collisions 927 969 925 941 911
Serious Collisions 2,629 2,174 2,373 2,490 2,513
Total Collisions 141,096 142,406 141,874 141,599 133,961

Here are some South Carolina car accident statistics from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety in 2019:

  • There is one person killed from a car accident every 8.7 hours
  • There is one injury collision every 13.6 minutes
  • There is one teen driver involved in a fatal or injury collision every 1.4 hours
  • In 2019, there were 650 traffic fatalities with access to seatbelts. 308 of them were not wearing seatbelts.

South Carolina drivers should drive with caution and take the extra step to make sure that themselves and their passengers are buckled before driving. If you do find yourself involved in a car accident, consulting with an accident attorney can help you recover the compensation that you deserve.

What You Need to Know About Seat Belts

There are many misconceptions surrounding seat belt usage. Here is what you need to know:

  • You still need to wear a seat belt if your car has airbags. Seat belts and air bags work together to keep you safe in the event of an accident. If you do not wear your seat belt, you are way more likely to endure severe injuries.
  • Seat belts are the most effective way to prevent injuries. If you get into a car crash, a seat belt can save you from catastrophic injuries, including severe injuries to the head and spinal cord as well as internal bleeding. In the most severe cases, someone not wearing a seat belt could be ejected from the vehicle.
  • Children and pregnant women are at risk. It is extra important for children and pregnant women to wear seat belts in the car because they are prone to injuries. Children often neglect wearing seat belts but with extra precaution from parents, they can develop the right habits. Children over the age of 4 that have outgrown their booster seats may sit facing forward with adult seat belts if they meet the height and weight requirments.
  • Wear your seat belt properly. Many people find it tempting to wear their seat belts improperly because they find them uncomfortable. Wearing it improperly is highly dangerous and does not protect you. You should never put your shoulder belt behind your arm.

When Can a Child Stop Using a Booster Seat in South Carolina?

Children under the age of 8 should ride in a booster seat until an adult seat belt fits them correctly. Typically a child will meet the height and weight requirements for a seat before age 8. Children should also ride in the back seat of a vehicle until age 13 because of the danger of front seat airbags.

Buckle Up in the Back Seat

In South Carolina, it is the law to wear a seat belt in the back seat. Some states only have front seat belt laws, including Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Virginia.

Many accidents result from back seat passengers not wearing seat belts. In 2018, there were 803 deaths of unbelted back seat passengers age 8 and older.

In a 2016 Opinion America survey, people were asked to report their reasons for not wearing seat belts in the back seat. Here are the responses recorded:

  • Short ride or rideshare/taxi ride
  • Comfort and convenience
  • Forgot
  • No law
  • Too crowded
  • Other passengers not wearing seat belts

South Carolina enforces rear seat belt laws. In order to keep yourself and those around you safe, it is important that you encourage seat belt use and educate your peers and family members about the safety implications.