To ensure the safety of children when they are in vehicles, states in the United States of America had to put laws in place to enforce it. One of these states is Florida. The car seat laws Florida has in place might differ from the laws of other states, however the idea is to make sure that safety is guaranteed, because in the event of accidents, it has been observed that children suffer the most casualties. So to avoid this, strict laws had to be implemented and enforced by the state of Florida.
The Florida car seat law states that children under the age of six must ride in a crash tested car seat approved by the federal government. Children under the age of 17 must also use a seat belt if they are to ride in a vehicle.
As we continue, we will expand these laws further, how they impact rear facing, front facing and child booster seats. We will also check if there are exceptions to these laws and possible penalties for offenders.
FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAWS
The laws governing the use of car seats in the state of Florida are as follows:
- That all children who are not up to the age of 4 years must use the correct child safety restraint or a safety seat, and must be in the back seat. Research has shown that a child is safer when he or she uses a car seat, until 2 years of age. To this effect, it is recommended that children who do not weigh up to 20 pounds should use a rear facing car seat. Children who do not weigh up to 40 pounds can use a forward facing car seat and when they have eventually outgrown the rear and forward facing car seat, they can use a booster seat.
- That in the state of Florida, children who are between the ages of four years and five years must be in a car seat or booster seat which depends largely on the height and weight of the child.
- A child can also move from his or her restraint system to the car’s seat belt so far as the child is below the height of 4’9’’ and over the age of five years. However, it has been proven that children are way safer when they use a car seat or a booster seat, until they are up to 4’9’’ in height.
- It is recommended to parents and guardians that children’s rear facing, front facing and booster seats be kept in the back seat of the vehicle until the child is up to 12 years old.
All of these laws must be adhered to the letter, so as to avoid sanctions from the state of Florida.
LAWS CONCERNING FORWARD FACING CAR SEAT
The state of Florida does not really state when you should start using a front facing car seat for your child, so far as you follow the instructions laid out by the manufacturer. This will provide enough safety to the child. There’s been a great debate in the State of Florida concerning the law governing front facing seats. So professionals in the field have agreed that once the child weighs between 25 to 45 pounds and is about 4 years old, he or she is eligible to use a front facing seat.
LAWS CONCERNING REAR FACING CAR SEAT
Unlike other states, and like the point stated above, there is still no precise law stating when a child should be in a rear facing car seat. But most other state require that all babies should use rear facing car seats.
So since there is no defined law that governs the use of rear facing seats, we recommend that you follow the guidelines as stated by the federal government.
Apart from following federal guidelines, you can also follow the ones recommended by the manufacturer. These laws are safety standards that were carefully thought out.
Factors like weight and height of the child are largely considered before production takes place. Most car seat manufacturers recommend that a child should always be in a rear facing car seat until they weigh up to 20 to 25 pounds.
However, experts say the rear facing car seat of a toddler can still be upgraded once the child weighs up to 40 to 45 pounds, and not up to the age of 4 years. This means the child would still be rear facing.
So even though there might not be clear cut rules, you could just follow federal guidelines and manufacturer recommendations for the rear facing car seat. These should be enough to ensure safety for the child.
LAWS CONCERNING CAR BOOSTER SEAT
At a tender age of 4, the state of Florida permits a child to use a booster seat. It is generally recommended by experts that once a child has outgrown the weight and height limit of a forward facing car seat, he or she is free to use a booster seat. The general weight limit for this is 85 pounds and the height limit is 35 inches.
Since it might be down to the parent or guardian to ensure the safety of the child, there are some basic factors to consider before your child uses a booster seat. These include:
- The fact that the child has outgrown the forward facing car seat and its internal harness.
- That the child weighs between 40 to 80 pounds and is 35 inches tall, but not more than 4’9’’.
- That the child cannot seat with his or her back resting on the car seat, and the knees bending towards the edge of the seat cushion, without the knee slouching.
LAWS CONCERNING SEAT BELT
Once a child is up to six years old and has stopped using a booster seat, the state of Florida allows him or her to use a seat belt. However, for most children, this age is still too young. So because of this, most safety experts concluded that the child should be at least 4’9’’ tall, and should be at least 8 years of age before the child can start using an adult seat belt.
Apart from these standard procedures, the following factors should be considered before a child start using a seat belt:
- The entire back of the child should rest on the seat.
- The knee of the child must bend towards the edge of the seat without the back slouching.
- The lap part of the seat belt must at least go across the body and then touch the thigh of the child.
- The shoulder part of the seat belt should rest across the collar bone, that’s between the shoulder and the neck, but still not touch the neck of the child.
- The child should be able to maintain this position for the entire time he or she is in the car.
EXCEPTIONS TO THIS LAW
For all the laws highlighted above, there are still some cases it does not apply. These include:
- That the child has a medical condition, the car seat laws will not apply. However, there must be some form of documentation from a licensed physician that states the exemption. This documentation will be presented to law enforcement agents if you are being pulled over.
- That you are transporting another person’s child and you do not get paid for it, there’s an exception to the booster seat law. The booster seat laws only apply to children that are your own.
- Still on the booster seat exceptions, if the child is older than 4 years of age, and the child is not yours, he or she is not mandated to use a booster seat. But children under the age of 3 years still need to use a car seat.
PENALTY FOR VIOLATING FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAW
In the state of Florida, if you violate any of the car seat laws, you could lose as much as three points from your license, and you could pay up to $60 as fine. Even inside Florida, these penalties could still vary, depending on the location.
To avoid losing points on your license, we recommend you attend a car seat safety course in some locations, where you will be taught how to use car seats properly for the child.
But even before taking the course, the judge will still determine if you can have points taken off, that’s because the judge has the final say.
By now, you would have noticed that the laws governing car seat laws in Florida are not as strict as compared to other states. This might not be a good thing, but it could be a blessing in disguise, as it will make the parent or guardian of the child put more effort in ascertaining the safety of the child.
Also, if in doubt, we recommend that you refer to federal guidelines and manufacturer instructions so as to ensure safety for your child or ward.