South Dakota has had a shaky history of seatbelt safety. Before 1994, South Dakota was one of the states with low safety belt usage rates. Only 26% of passengers in the front seat would use their seatbelts (South Dakota Department of Public Safety). 

Fortunately, the state has made a huge turn-around since the introduction of seatbelt laws, making car seat safety a higher priority than in previous years. In this detailed guide, we will review all of south dakota’s car seat laws, installation requirements, and penalties. 

The South Dakota requirements for car seat safety fit the standard that most states use with a few additions. 

Any child five years old or younger must be in the proper child restraint system. A child’s height and weight will determine which restraint will be the most appropriate for them.  Child safety restraints can include any of the following: infant seat, booster seat, forward-facing, rear-facing harness.

Rear-facing Car Seat Laws

South Dakota rear-facing car seat laws require that children stay in rear-facing booster seats until they are 12 months old (one-year-old) and 20 pounds. Once the child reaches this age and weight, they can then be placed into a front-facing booster car seat. 

Front-facing Car Seat Laws

The South Dakota front-facing law requires that when the child is one year old or older and is 20 or more pounds, they must be put into a front-facing (or forward-facing) booster car seat.

Booster Requirements 

The SD Car Seat Law states that booster seats are meant for children between 20 and 40 pounds. South Dakota requires that you put your child in this type of car seat and use a five-point harness.

It is to be noted that a child under five years old but is at least 40 pounds does not require additional restraints other than a seatbelt. Children are at least five but not 18 years old are to be properly restrained by a seatbelt. 

Penalties for Car Seat/ Seat Belt Violations

Individuals can face a $25 penalty if any of the front-seat passengers are not wearing a seatbelt. A seatbelt violation for passengers 18 years and older is considered to be a secondary offense.

This means that a driver cannot be stopped for a seatbelt violation unless it is regarding a car seat violation. You can be pulled over for not having a child in a car seat or seatbelt. For South Dakota, this is considered a primary offense and a petty offense. 

Exceptions to State Laws

There are a few exceptions to South Dakota’s seatbelt and car seat requirements. Vehicles created before the year 1966 and school buses do not have to adhere to the seatbelt and car seat regulations.

South Dakota Car Seat Laws | Requirements & Guidelines 11966 & Older Cars Are Exempt

Finding, Installing, and Registering a Car Seat

Looking for the best car seat to fit your child’s needs doesn’t have to be a hassle. There is an abundance of resources available that can use to ensure your child has a secure car seat. Here are some steps you can take. 

CDC Facts on Car Seats

Listed below are some facts about child car seat safety from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): 

Using a car seat can reduce injuries from a car crash by 71-82% for children. This is compared to when children are only restrained by a seatbelt. Using a booster seat can reduce the risk of serious injuries from a car crash by 45% for children between the ages of 4-8. (CDC)

Find The Right Car Seat

As mentioned before, there are different types of car seats to choose from based on your child’s height and weight. Listed below are age recommendations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

    1. Rear-Facing Car Seat: Birth – 12 months; 1-3 years
    2. Forward-Facing Car Seat: 1-3 years; 4-7 years
    3. Booster Seat: 4-7 years; 8-12 years
    4. Seat Belt: 8-12 years (NHTSA Car Seat Recommendations for Children)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that the leading cause of death for kids are car crashes How would you feel if your child was severely injured in an accident because they weren’t properly secured?

Every parent or guardian must be knowledgeable of their state’s regulation on car seat safety. Continue reading on to learn about the car seat safety laws regulated in South Dakota and how to ensure your child is properly secured.

Correctly Install The Car Seat

After picking the best place in the car to install the car seat, use a seat belt or a LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) that can be laced through the car seat. Don’t use both the seat belt and LATCH simultaneously. 

Administer the inch test.  The Inch Test ensures that a car seat doesn’t move within the one-inch front to back or side to side when pulled. Only use a LATCH for a child who is within the weight limit. When a child gets too large for a LATCH, undo their LATCH and begin using a seatbelt. (SafeKids Worldwide)

Click here to find a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST) near you that can assist you with installing a car seat. 

Register The Car Seat

Registering your child’s car seat can help you stay notified about any recalls. You can either register your car seat online with your vehicle’s manufacturer, or you can visit this website to register your car seat. 

Child Safety Seat Distribution

South Dakota has a program called the Child Safety Seat Distribution Program, which provides free car seats to eligible families. This program helps to ensure families are putting their children in the correct car seats for their height and weight.

Parents must meet the eligibility guidelines, which are based on financial need and children with special needs. You can visit this website to learn more about the program in greater detail and how you can apply. 

South Dakota Office of Highway Safety 

The South Dakota Office of Highway Safety is a part of South Dakota’s Department of Public Safety. The South Dakota Office of Highway Safety is a great resource for residents in South Dakota looking for education and support for driving safety. You can visit their website here or call them at (605)773-3178 for more information. 

Additional Recommendations for Car Seat Safety

Here are some additional tips and reminders to consider for the car seat and seatbelt safety in South Dakota:

Avoid buying second-hand car seats: These car seats tend to be outdated, meaning that they may have recalled on them, which can be harmful to your child. Place the car seat in the middle seat if possible: The middle seat is considered the best place to put the car seat to ensure a child’s safety.

Don’t remove the car seat too early: They must meet both the height and weight requirements before removing a car seat. Children 12 years old and younger should always sit in the rear seats. 

Avoid using a shield booster: Shield boosters don’t meet federal standards as they can be dangerous to children.  Never place a shoulder belt underneath a child’s arm or behind their back: This is extremely dangerous and can cause severe damage if a car accident occurs. (South Dakota Department of Public Safety)


Your child’s safety should always be a top priority for you for any circumstance. Review South Dakota’s regulations on car seats to ensure you’re doing the best for your child. Staying up to date on regulations and guidelines can save their life.

If you have any questions or concerns about car safety laws in South Dakota, you can contact the following resources below.

South Dakota Department of Public Safety

(605)773-3178 /

South Dakota Department of Social Services

(605)773-3165 /

Avatar of Keren Simanova

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren

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