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June 10, 2019

Understanding Florida Car Seat Laws

florida's new car seat laws

Florida Child Restraint Laws

Parents want to do everything they can to keep their children safe when riding in a vehicle. However, the Florida laws concerning child restraint systems can be confusing. Whether you live in Florida or are a visitor passing through, you need to understand what the law requires. 

What are Florida’s car seat laws?

Florida law requires that all children five years of age or younger to use a federally approved child restraint system. 

  • The law requires that infants and toddlers from birth through age three be in a separate carrier device or an approved integrated child seat.
  • The law requires that children aged four to five be in a separate carrier device, an integrated child safety seat, or a booster seat.

Florida law gives the option for those six and older to continue to use a booster seat or to begin wearing a regular seat belt. 

What are the penalties for not using a seat belt in Florida?

Parents who do not follow the Florida law regarding child restraint systems in their vehicle can face a $60.00 fine and three points against their driver’s license. 

However, the monetary and license points are the least severe consequences a parent can face. By not using an appropriate child safety system inside a vehicle, a parent is placing their child at high risk of injury or death in the event of an accident. 

The Centers for Disease Control says that there were 723 children 12 and under that died in vehicle crashes during the latest reporting year. 128,000 children were injured in vehicle crashes that year. 

Closer to home, there were 130,114 children in vehicle crashes in Florida in 2018. Out of those, there were:

  • 18,579 possible injuries
  • 1,247 serious bodily injuries
  • 155 fatalities

It is not uncommon for us to see the following injuries in children in the aftermath of a crash.

Does it matter what kind of car seat I use?

Just because the Florida laws are vague as to what kind of child safety seat to use, that does not make the matter less important. These seats are not one size fits all. Child safety seats should be used appropriately, not just with the child’s age, but also according to their weight and height. 

  • Infant car seats differ from the seats used by older children and are meant to be rear-facing. Rear-facing seats protect newborns and infants by ensuring the force of an impact is spread along the shell of the car seat. You should never turn a seat to face forward before a child has properly developed. This can result in serious injuries to the spine, neck, head, and brain. 
  • Convertible car seats are made for those transitioning from rear-facing seats to forward-facing seats once a child has reached an appropriate weight and height. 
  • Booster seats are the next step up when your child has outgrown the convertible car seat, but their knees do not yet bend at the edge of the regular backseat cushion when they are sitting all the way back in the seat. 

For more information about which seats are safe for your children to use, please go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s page for further advice. 

Florida Seat Belt Laws

There is no denying that seat belts save lives. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45% and the risk of serious injury by 50% in a car crash. Because seat belts are so vital to the safety of Florida citizens, it is important to understand the laws set forth by the state regarding their use. 

What are Florida’s seat belt laws?

Florida law requires drivers and front-seat passengers to wear seat belts. In addition to this, anyone who is under the age of 18 inside the vehicle must also wear a seat belt. 

Drivers will be charged with a seat belt violation for any passenger in the front seat or anyone under the age of 18 in the vehicle not wearing their seat belt. 

Is Florida a secondary seat belt law?

In the past, Florida was a secondary seat belt violation state. This meant that a police officer could write you a ticket for not wearing a seat belt only if they pulled you over for another traffic violation. However, that changed in 2009. Seat belt violations are not considered primary enforcement actions, and a police officer can pull you over if not wearing a seat belt is the only violation you incurred. 

Do you have to wear a seat belt in the back seat?

If you are under the age of 18 and in the back seat of a vehicle, you must wear a seat belt. However, if you are 18 years of age or over, you are not required by law to wear one. However, it is still highly recommended that you wear a seat belt regardless of how old you are and where you are located inside the vehicle. 

Why is wearing a seat belt important?

Florida is a crowded place with traffic from local drivers and millions of visitors each year. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), there were over 400,000 crashes were reported across the state during the latest year of available data. Out of these crashes, there were:

  • 3,116 total fatalities
  • 254,310 total injuries
  • 20,380 incapacitating injuries

When looking at the statistics, we see that 651 of those fatalities were of unrestrained drivers and passengers. Over 1,600 people sustained incapacitating injuries due to being unrestrained. Seat belts are vital in preventing people from being ejected from the vehicle in a crash. They also prevent people from being thrown against other passengers, the steering wheel, or the windshield in a crash.

It is not uncommon for us to see the following injuries as a result of a car accident with unrestrained drivers:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Bone fractures
  • Loss of or damage to a bodily organ
  • Dismemberment or amputation
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Other injuries that inhibit a person’s daily activities

Each of these injuries can lead to major medical expenses and lifelong disabilities for victims. Contact a Florida personal injury lawyer at Farah & Farah for more information. 

What are the penalties for not wearing a seat belt in Florida?

If a person is pulled over and cited by a police officer for failing to wear a seat belt, they will face a primary violation. 

  • There is a $30 fine in Florida for not wearing a seat belt.
  • Failing to secure a child 5 years of age or younger will result in a ticket of $60. 
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