In recognition of Child Passenger Safety Week, National Seat Check Saturday, and the continued importance of keeping children safely secured when riding in cars, this blog will examine the current child car seat laws in Florida. Choosing to observe these laws could mean the difference between life and death. Here you can learn all about Florida car seat laws, not only because these laws will help keep your children safe, but also because they are the law—not a recommendation or guideline!

Dangers of Improper Child Restraints While Driving

Every year, children who are improperly restrained while riding in vehicles are injured and killed in auto accidents. According to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Information (NHTSA), one child under the age of 13 in a passenger vehicle was involved in a crash every 32 seconds in 2017. That same year, 675 children children 12 years of age and younger were killed in auto accidents, and nearly 116,000 were injured according to the CDC. Of the children whose restraint use was known, 35% of those killed in a crash were not buckled up.

Florida Car Seat Laws for Children

Age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts are proven to save childrens’ lives during car accidents and reduce their risks of sustaining serious and fatal injuries. It is for those very reasons that the use of child car seats is mandatory for all children in the state of Florida (based on certain age and weight guidelines).

Here are the most current laws regarding car seat usage in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV):

  • All children who are 5 years old and younger must be properly secured in a federally approved, crash-tested child restraint device, such as a car seat
  • Children who are 3 years old and younger must be properly secured in a separate car seat or the vehicle’s built-in child seat
  • Children who are 4 to 5 years old must be properly secured in a separate car seat, build-in child seat, or a booster seat
  • Children who are 6 to 17 years old must be properly secured in a seat belt

Remember, seat belts are made for adult passengers. If your child has outgrown their car seat, but the seat belt does not fall comfortably over their shoulder and across their lap—for example, if it falls across their neck—the child should remain in a booster seat until they have grown enough for the vehicle’s seat belt to fit properly without a booster seat. In addition, you should never put a child in a car seat in the front seat of a vehicle where the passenger air bag is. The back seat is always the safest place for your child to ride in your car.

How old do you have to be to sit in the front seat in Florida?

According to the FLHSMV, children should always ride in the rear seats until they are at least 12 years old. Why? Because the front seat air bags can be dangerous—and in some cases, fatal—for young children.

What happens if I don’t observe the car seat laws in Florida?

Car seat laws in Florida are meant to be taken seriously because they exist for the safety and wellbeing of all children riding in vehicles. If your child, or another child in your vehicle, is not properly using a car seat or booster seat per the above Florida laws, you may receive a $60 fine and 3 points against your license. You may be able to avoid the points on your license by attending a car seat safety course, but that is at the discretion of the judge in the county where your violation occurred.

Additional Guidelines for Car Seat Safety

The Broward County Sheriff's Office has provided the following guidelines for those transporting children in passenger vehicles in Florida, which should be taken into consideration in addition to the laws:

  • If a safety belt does not correctly fit the child, a booster seat should be used to correctly position the lap and shoulder belts once they have outgrown forward facing child safety seats (generally around 40 pounds and 4 years old)
  • Children who are approximately 40-80 pounds and under 4’9” should ride in a booster seat
  • Infants must ride rear-facing until they are at least one year old and weigh 20 pounds or more
  • Rear-facing, the infant should be semi-upright, at an angle of no more than 45 degrees
  • A forward-facing older child should ride sitting upright

Lastly, according to the CDC, the proper use of restraints among young children is often dependent on the seat belt use of the driver. Almost 40% of children riding with unbelted drivers were unrestrained as well.

Keeping Your Tiny Passengers Safe on the Road

Proper car safety starts with YOU! Your infants and small children will not remind you to buckle up, nor will they remind you to properly restrain them. It is up to you to follow the state of Florida's car seat safety laws, booster seat laws, and seat belt laws for the protection of you and your family.

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