Florida is catching up with the rest of the nation when it comes to car seat laws. It used to be only children ages 3 and younger were required to ride in child-restraint devices, and children ages 4 and 5 could use seat belts. Florida was one of only two states without a booster seat law, but that has changed with the new law that went into effect January 1, 2015.
Starting the first day of 2015, Florida drivers now must follow the new car seat law that was put in place to help reduce tragic outcomes for children involved in car accident. The new law now requires that a car seat or booster seat must be installed and used until a child’s 6th birthday. It specifies that:
- Children under age four are required to use a car seat with a harness
- Children ages 4 and 5 may use either a car seat or booster seat with a seat belt – but not a seat belt alone.
AAA Auto Club supports the booster seat change, but AAA spokeswoman Karen Morgan would like to see the continuation of booster seat used until children reach 4 feet 9 inches tall regardless of the child’s age. She said in a release, “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of a 5-point harness until the child is 40 lbs. Age should not be a determining factor.”
If you violate the new law (HB 225) you could receive a $60 fine and three points on your driver’s license. The exceptions to the new law includes unpaid drivers who are not a member of the child’s immediate family or when a child is being transported because of a medical emergency.
Booster seats fill the need for when a child is too big for a car seat, but is not big enough for a regular seat with a seat belt. Seat belts are designed for adult use only, and for children less than 4 feet 9 inches tall, the seat belt will not fit correctly on the child’s smaller body frame and cannot provide them with the proper protection they need if involved in a car accident.
Safety experts from AAA and the National Safety Council recommend parents keep children in forward-facing car seats with a harness until the maximum height and weight recommended by the car seat manufacturer for their particular make and style of car seat. Given current models available, this can be as high as 65-80 pounds.
If you are confused about the new law or have any other questions about car seat safety concerns the Keys to Kids Safety Program in Florida, has many online and offline resources available for parents, including:
- Parents with questions about the new law or any other car seat safety concerns can make an appointment with a certified technician trained in child passenger safety through the Keys to Kids Safety Program.
- Technicians can teach parents how to install new seats, help assess the safety of current seats and provide information on choosing the correct seat for each child.
- Individual appointments are available in Key West on Wednesdays, in Tavernier on January 28 and March 11, or in Marathon on February 18.
- Call 305-293-8424 to schedule an appointment or for additional details. Assistance is free to any parent or caregiver in Monroe County. If a child’s seat is determined to be unsafe, new car seats are available for a $25 donation.
The SafeKids Worldwide Organization website provides a helpful interactive tool to determine whether your child should be fitted in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt; along with quick how-to videos and other additional safety tips for car seat safety. click here