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North Carolina Car Seat Laws You Need To Know (2021)

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When you’re planning a family trip to North Carolina, it’s important that you make sure to follow local (or exceed) the child passenger safety laws.

Official North Carolina Car Seat Laws

You can find the official North Carolina car seat law in G.S. 20-137.1. As you can see, NC car seat laws are far behind our current understanding of child passenger safety.


North Carolina Rear-Facing Car Seat Law

North Carolina does not specify how long children must be rear facing. At a minimum, parents are required to follow the guidelines set forth by the manufacturer of their specific car seat (referred to as “proper use”).

Some manufacturers permit children to forward face as young as 1 year as long as they weigh at least 22 pounds, while other manufacturers require toddlers to be at least 2 years old to forward face.

Rear-facing is significantly safer for children as it dramatically decreases the risk of head and neck injuries. This resource is full of great information.

The current guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics is that children should remain rear-facing to the limits of their convertible car seat. Nearly all convertible car seats today will accommodate kids up to 40 pounds (they have variable height limits so read your manual) – the size of an average 4 year old – rear facing.

Though it’s not specified by the law, research indicates that kids should continue riding in a harnessed car seat (whether rear-facing or forward-facing) until at least age 5, 40 pounds and mature enough to sit properly for the whole drive.

Regardless of their height, NC car seat law requires that children ride in a harness car seat or booster seat until at least age 8 or 80 pounds.


North Carolina Booster Seat Law

Booster seat laws in NC require children to ride in a car seat or booster seat until they reach 80 pounds or 8 years old. Unlike most states, NC does not specify a minimum height for kids to switch to an adult seatbelt alone.

Be sure to follow manufacturer minimum and maximum size requirements for your booster seat – most manufacturers now require a minimum of 4 years old, 40″ tall and 40 pounds.

Most children do not fit properly in an adults seatbelt until 10-12 years old, when they pass the 5-step test.


When Can Kids Ride In the Front Seat In North Carolina?

Shockingly, North Carolina permits children as young as 5 years old or 40 pounds to ride in the front seat. Fortunately most car manufacturers specify that kids should not ride in the front until age 13. Here’s an excellent explanation of why.


Upcoming Changes To North Carolina Car Seat Law

NC car seat laws haven’t been updated since 2004 and do not reflect our current understanding of child passenger safety. Hopefully they will catch up soon!

Get the latest from Buckle Up NC


If you’ll be flying to North Carolina, be sure to bring one of these travel car seats. If you’re planning a family road trip, consider one of these comfortable convertible car seats or comfortable booster seats. Check more car seat laws by state as you plan your route.

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