As of January 1, 2015 Florida passed a new law concerning child booster seats and safety restraint laws. Florida is the 49th state to implement stricter safety requirements regarding child booster and safety restraints. These laws have been the standard in other states across the country except for South Dakota. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that “traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for children ages 3-19,” citing improper seat belt and car safety seat use as a major contributing factor.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the proper use of seat belts and car seats can impact all age groups. For example:
- Rear-facing car seat use can reduce the risk of injury and death to infants by 71 percent
- Proper car seats use can reduce the risk of death and injury to toddlers (ages 1-4 years old) by 54 percent
- For children ages 4-8 years old, using a booster seat can reduce injuries by 45 percent compared to seat belt use.
- Seat belt use also reduces the risk of injury and death by 50 percent for older children and adults
Florida Child Car Seat Requirements:
Florida law now requires all drivers to provide a crash-tested, federally approved car seat for all children 5 years old and younger. Prior to this law, 4 and 5 year olds were only required to wear a seat belt. Additionally, for children up to 3 years old, drivers have two options for safety restraints. The safety restraint may either be a separate carrier or a vehicle that provides a manufactured integrated car seat feature. Only two car manufacturers, Volvo and Dodge, offer integrated booster seats and only in certain vehicle models.
Drivers with children ages 4 and 5 years old have some additional options regarding safety restraints. Safety restraints options for children 4 and 5 years old are a separate carrier, manufacturer integrated car seat feature, or booster seat. Different from rear-facing and forward-facing car seats, booster seats protect children by raising them up to fit in the requirements for proper seat belt use. Studies found that catastrophic injuries occurred in children when the seat belt fell across their belly or neck. “Proper seat belts use should fall across the hips and shoulders,” according to Florida Highway Safety Patrol.
Children ages 6 – 17 are required to wear a seatbelt when riding in a vehicle.
Drivers violating the new Florida child booster seat and safety restraint laws are subject to a $60 fine and 3 point penalty on their driver’s license. Some legal exceptions are given to those giving children a “free” ride by someone outside their immediate family or documented health condition that requires exemption status.
What Safety Experts Recommend
While Florida’s law seems stricter in its requirements, other safety organizations are calling for further child-safety restrictions.
AAA and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children should use a car seat or booster seat until they measure 4 feet 9 inches tall. The majority of most children don’t reach that height until age 8-12 years old.
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