According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, parents who use child restraint systems reduce their child’s risk of car accident injuries by up to 82%. Without child restraints that fit your child properly, your child could get ejected or thrown around your vehicle in a collision.
To reduce the risk of injury or death to your child, Florida requires child restraints for children ages five or younger. To avoid a fine and protect your child’s health, you must comply with these laws while you drive in Florida.
Here is some information about Florida car seat laws and how they compare to the recommendations from child safety experts.
Florida’s Child Car Seat Law
Florida’s child seat law has only a few nuances, but the language in the statute has some ambiguities.
Overall, you should have no problem complying with the two primary requirements of the law:
- For children aged zero to three, you must use a separate carrier or integrated child seat
- For children aged four or five, you must use a separate carrier, integrated child seat, or booster seat
Florida’s legislature used some strange terms in the law. In the industry, a “separate carrier” usually refers to an infant carrier that you can remove from a base that stays in the car. But this is not what Florida’s law requires.
“Separate carrier” simply refers to a removable car seat with a harness system.
In layman’s terms, you need to carry children ages zero to three in a removable car seat or built-in car seat. When your child turns four, you get the additional option of a booster seat.
When your child turns six, according to state law, your child does not need to ride in any of these child restraint systems. Instead, your child can use the car’s seat belts.
Florida’s Safety Belt Law
Florida’s safety belt, or seat belt, law takes over when your child turns six years old. Children ages six up to age 18 must wear a seat belt. This law applies whether the child sits in the back seat or the front seat of the vehicle.
When your children become teenagers, you should also remind them that all drivers and front-seat passengers must wear a seat belt at all times. This law applies regardless of age.
Exceptions to Florida’s Child Car Seat Law
Florida’s car seat law allows a child to ride with a seat belt instead of a child restraint if the child:
- Is riding in a carpool with a non-family member
- Is suffering a medical emergency
- Has a medical condition that prevents the use of a child restraint
Florida’s Helmet Law
Florida does have a helmet law that applies to motorcycles and mopeds. Under Florida’s helmet law, children under 21 must wear a helmet while riding or driving a motorcycle. Children under 16 must wear a helmet when riding or driving a moped.
Federal Recommendations for Child Car Seats
Florida’s law lacks specifics, other than to say that children who are four or five years old can use a booster instead of a car seat. But federal guidelines provide some additional details that can help parents pick the right car seat for their children.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests using age, weight, and height to pick a car seat.
Its recommendations for car seat use cover:
Rear-Facing Car Seats
The NHTSA recommends rear-facing car seats for all infants under one year old.
Rear-facing car seats are safer because the child’s momentum during a collision will push the child into the seat. This allows the seat to support the child’s head, reducing the odds of a brain injury or spinal cord injury.
Rear-facing car seats also spread the force of an impact across a larger area of the infant’s body. Rather than focusing the entire force of impact on the harness, the force of impact is spread across the entire backrest.
Front-Facing Car Seats
The NHTSA recommends keeping children in a rear-facing car seat until they outgrow it. Rather than relying strictly on their age, you should use the height and weight restrictions on your rear-facing car seat to time your move to a front-facing seat.
You should use these parameters together. Suppose that your weight restriction on your rear-facing seat is 20 pounds. You should move your child to a front-facing seat when the child is over one year old and weighs more than 20 pounds.
A front-facing seat does not provide as much safety as a rear-facing seat. But by this time, the child’s neck will have enough strength to safely ride in a front-facing seat.
A booster seat lacks a harness and backrest. Instead, it uses the seatback and seat belt built into the vehicle. The booster merely lifts the child high enough that the shoulder harness holds the child’s chest and shoulder in a collision. This could be why the recommendations get complicated for booster seats.
The government recommends that a child not move to a booster seat before they turn five. This recommendation keeps children in child seats a full year longer than Florida’s law.
But the government recommendations go even further. They recommend keeping your child in a front-facing car seat until they reach 40 pounds in weight or four feet nine inches in height.
Florida’s law does not depend on weight or height. This means that your children should remain in a front-facing car seat under the federal guidelines until their fifth birthday or later if they have a small stature.
Once your children reach their fifth birthday, weigh more than 40 pounds, and are taller than four feet, nine inches, they can safely move into a booster seat according to NHTSA recommendations.
Car Seats and Injury Cases
Florida has one more wrinkle in its car seat law. When your child sustains an injury in a car accident, the at-fault driver cannot bring up the fact that your child was or was not in a car seat as a defense.
Normally, an accident victim’s role in contributing to their injuries can reduce the damages they are eligible to receive. Thus, if they are 10% at fault, they can only get 90% of their damages.
This rule does not apply to children who are injured in a car accident. This means that your child should receive full damages for any car accident injuries they experience.
To learn more about the relevance of car seats to your claim for your child’s injuries, contact Hollander Law Firm, P.A. We’ll discuss the facts of your case and review your legal options.