Florida booster seat laws for children to change in January

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Florida has been known for having some of the weakest child safety seat laws in the country and the battle to strengthen them has been going on for 14 years. Advocates for child safety say putting a toddler who’s outgrown a child seat into a booster can make a life-or-death difference.  Right now, Florida is one of only two states in the nation that does not require car seats for kids who’d outgrown baby seats but were still too small for seat belts.

There is a new law that is  going into effect that greatly improves Florida’s child safety seat laws – essentially mandating booster seats for children aged 3 to 6-years-old. The law goes into effect January 1, 2015.  The new law will require your child to be in the booster seat until their 6th birthday – but experts say a better rule of thumb is to keep them in the booster seat until the seat belt fits properly.  Law enforcement say they see children restrained the wrong way in vehicles every single day.  It translates into a $160 ticket and danger for children.  Experts said the best guideline is to go by your child’s height and weight. They should be at least 4’9 and weigh between 80 to 100 pounds before they use an adult seat belt.  Why is this law so important? It elevates the child up a little bit so the seat belt can secure them properly by going across the chest in the proper way

There is one exception to the new law, children ages 4 or 5 may ride with just a seat belt if the driver is not a member of their immediate family and if they’re being given a ride as a favor or in an emergency

You may ask – what is Florida’s child safety seat law?   

It is the responsibility of the supervising adult to ensure that any child under 5 years old is seated in a federally-approved child car seat. Failure to do so could result in a $60 fine and 3 points against your driver’s license.
Florida law states:

  • Children 5 years old or younger must be secured in a federally approved child restraint system.
  • Children 3 years old and younger must use a separate car-seat or the vehicle’s built-in child seat.
  • Children 4 to 5 years old must sit in either a separate car seat or a built in child seat.

Use the following car seat guidelines from the FLHSMV while driving with a child in your vehicle.

  • Birth – 1 year old and at least 20 lbs.
    • Use a rear-facing child car seat in the back seat of the car.
  • 1 year old and 20 lbs. – 4 years old and 40 lbs.
    • Use a rear-facing child car seat in the back seat until they outgrow the weight and height limit of the child car seat.
    • Normally when children are over 1 year old and weigh over 20 pounds, you can switch to a forward-facing car seat in the back of the car.
  • 4 years old and 40 lbs. – 8 years old or 4’9″ tall
    • Use a forward-facing child seat in the back seat until they reach the weight and height limits recommended by the manufacturer.
    • Switch to a booster seat in the back of the car.
  • 8 years old or 4’9″ tall –12 years old
    • Use a booster seat in the back seat until your child is big enough to use the car’s seat belt.
    • At 13 years old, your child can sit in the front seat of your car.

For more information, please check out the Florida HSMV’s safety brochure  on child safety seats. (http://www.dmv.org/fl-florida/safety-laws.php) Never put your child in a child car seat in the front of a vehicle with a passenger air bag. It is always safest for your child to ride in the back seat.

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