Buckling your child’s seatbelt may seem like a given in this era of parenting. However, many states still assert the need for statutes regarding this essential safety measure in vehicles.
Let’s look at the legislation regarding child restraints for various ages, as well as penalties you could face if you’re lax about buckling up.
Florida child restraint laws are covered in Section 316.613 of the state’s statutes. Florida law states:
- Children five years old or younger must be secured in a federally approved child restraint system.
- Children three years old and younger must use a separate car seat or the vehicle’s built-in car seat.
- Children four to five years old and shorter than four foot nine inches must sit in either a separate car seat, built-in child seat, or a child booster seat.
- Children four foot nine inches and taller are required to wear a seat belt under Section 316.614 of Florida Statutes.
Penalties for failing to adhere to the state’s minimum requirements can include fines starting at $60 and three points against your driver’s license. If a person gets too many points, their license will be suspended.
Let’s not forget that serious and fatal injuries are the real tragedies associated with improper child restraints. One carelessly misplaced car seat strap could mean life or death for a small child.
Improperly Restrained Children
According to a study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), car accidents are the leading cause of fatal injury among children ages zero to nineteen years.
Researchers found in a 2017 study published in the Journal for Pediatrics that about 43 percent of children fatality injured in car accidents were improperly restrained.
The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department offers these guidelines to help parents safely restrain their children while on the road:
- Zero to twelve months and at least twenty pounds – Use a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the car.
- Twelve months and twenty pounds to five years and forty pounds – Use a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the car until your child outgrows the car seat. When your child is older than one year and weighs more than twenty pounds, you can switch to a forward-facing car seat in the back seat of the car.
- Five years old and forty pounds to six years old or four feet, nine inches tall – Use a forward-facing car seat in the back seat of the car until the child outgrows the car seat, then switch to a booster seat in the back seat of the car.
- Six years old or four feet, nine inches tall to twelve years old – Use a booster seat in the back seat until your child is tall enough to properly use the car’s seat belt. At thirteen years old, your child can sit in the front seat.
The number of children who suffered fatal injuries in car accidents while restrained has risen drastically as car seat technologies have evolved over the past thirty years. It’s important for parents to make sure they are restraining their children properly.
Always read the instructions that come with car seats and hold fast to safety guidelines. They just might save your child’s life.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2020 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2017, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019.