Each year, children who are improperly restrained are injured or die in automobile accidents. Age and size appropriate car seats are proven to save lives during accidents. In the State of Florida, the use of child car seats is mandatory for all children based on certain age and weight guidelines. It is the responsibility of the supervising adult to ensure that any child under the age of 5 is seated in a federally approved child car seat. Failure to do so could result in a fine and points against your driver’s license.

Florida law states that all children 3 years of age or younger must use a separate car seat or the vehicle’s built-in child seat. Children ages 4 to 5 must sit in either a separate car seat, a built-in child seat or use a seat belt, depending on the child’s height and weight. All children under the age of 18 must use a seat belt. Although it is not required, the DHSMV recommends that children 12 and under ride in the backseat of the vehicle when possible. This is due to safety concerns regarding airbag deployment, which can be dangerous to small children.

In addition to the requirements under the law, there are additional tips to make sure that children are safely secured while riding in the car. For instance, once a child outgrows a forward facing child safety seat, if a safety belt does not fit the child correctly, a booster seat should be used to correctly position the lap and shoulder belts. Booster seats should be used for children who are approximately 40 to 80 pounds and under 4’9” in height. Infants must ride rear-facing until they are at least one year old and weigh 20 pounds or more. While infants are rear-facing, they should be semi-upright at an angle of no more than 45 degrees. Moreover, all older, forward-facing children should ride sitting upright.

Once you have a safety seat for your child, it is important to use it properly. Often, car seats and boosters are recalled due to various safety concerns. You can sign up to receive email alerts for car seat and booster seat recalls from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additionally, you can visit a Child Car Seat Inspection Station, where a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician will inspect your child safety seat, in most cases free of charge.  The technician will also show you how to correctly install and use your car seat.

According to the Center for Disease Control, use of restraints among young children is often dependent on the seatbelt use of the driver. Almost 40% of children riding with unbelted drivers were unrestrained themselves. Small children will not restrain themselves and will not remind you to buckle up. It is important that you follow Florida’s car seat safety laws and seatbelt laws, for the protection of you and your family.

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At Wittmer & Linehan PLLC, we are dedicated to automobile safety. We have seen first hand the devastation that automobile accidents can cause to the victim and their families. Our experienced automobile accident attorneys can help you better understand your rights. Call us at 941-263-8314 for a free consultation.