Child seat belt laws in North Carolina apply to children under the age of 16 in front or back seats and fall under the NC Child Passenger Safety Law. All vehicles required by federal standards to have seat belts are covered. This generally includes cars made after 1967, light trucks, and vans made after 1971, as well as large buses including school and municipal buses.
Child Restraint Required
North Carolina child seat belt laws require a properly used child restraint device (CRD) if the child is under 8 years old and weighs less than 80 pounds. Belt-positioning booster seats can be used for children between 40 and 80 pounds. It is very important that the shoulder belt never be placed under a child’s (or adult’s) arm or behind the back. This is both dangerous and illegal. If a seat is not equipped with a lap and shoulder belt to properly secure a belt-positioning booster seat, a child who weighs at least 40 pounds may be restrained by a properly fitted lap belt only. Belt-positioning booster seats must never be used with just a lap belt as they are for lap and shoulder combination safety belts only. (Studies have shown obese persons are less likely to wear seat belts. This is due to the manufactured length of the seat belt not being adequate to fit the obese person.)
Position in Vehicle
Child seat belt laws require that child restraint devices be installed in the rear seat if the child is less than age 5 and 40 lbs, and if the vehicle has a passenger side airbag and a rear seat. Installation of the device in the front seat is allowed if the CRD is designed for use with air bags. Sometimes seat belts cause injuries, our Raleigh defective product lawyers can help with a defective seat belt case.
Vehicles that are not required to have seat belts include cars made before 1968 and pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans made before 1972, and large buses. Ambulances are also exempt from belt laws as well as any other emergency vehicles. If a child's "personal needs" are being tended to or if all seating positions with belts are occupied, then exemptions are generally made as well.
Driver Responsibility & Penalties
The driver of the vehicle is responsible for all children lunder the age of sixteen. As of this writing, the penalty shall not exceed $25. However, in addition to the penalty, full court costs apply ($100). Some cases involving negligent seat belt use have settled for $4M. The driver generally receives two points on their license and no insurance points are accrued. No conviction will be given if the child is less than 8 years old and proof is presented at trial that an appropriate CRD/booster seat has been acquired for a vehicle in which the child is normally transported since the violation.
Backless belt-positioning boosters just have the booster base with no back to them and are designed to raise the child so that the lap and shoulder combination safety belt fits them properly. As long as the lap and shoulder belts fit well on the child, a backless booster will work just as well as a high-back booster in a frontal or side impact collision. Keep in mind backless boosters may not provide the same degree of whiplash protection in a rear-end collision. A high-back booster will give better overall protection.
Small Shield Boosters
Many older booster seats were "small-shield boosters." The small shield on one of these boosters fit over the child's abdomen to eliminate at least some of the problems of poorly fitting lap belts. Most older boosters were small shield boosters since most vehicles only had lap belts in all rear seating positions. Boosters with shields are no longer certified or recommended for children over 40 pounds. Most of the more recent models of shield boosters can be used without the shield for use as a belt-positioning booster with a lap and shoulder combination belt. Be sure to check the manufacturer's instructions to be sure this is allowed before doing so.