By now, almost every parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, or anyone transporting a child on a regular basis is well aware that having a baby or toddler properly restrained in a car seat is mandatory in the State of Florida.

What they may not be aware of is that the car seat law has recently changed to help further protect our children.   The legislation that was passed in 2014, has now gone into effect as of January 1st, 2015, that requires children through age five to be in car seats or booster seats while riding in a vehicle. Prior to this January, children ages three and younger were required to ride in a child-restraint device, while children ages four and five could use seat belts.

Anyone violating the law will face a $60 fine and three points on their driver's license. The law includes exceptions such as when a driver is unpaid and is not a member of the child's immediate family or when a child is being transported because of a medical emergency.

Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death of children, ages 3-14. However, many of these deaths can be prevented through the proper use of child safety seats. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers, ages one through four.  The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, reported that in 2014 at least five children died and another 145 were injured because they were not in child safety seats, or the seats were installed incorrectly. 

Although the law is geared to children up to age five,  many experts including the AAA Auto Club recommend keeping children in booster seats until they are at least 4-foot-9, which usually happens around age eight. This is due to children not receiving the full protection of a seat belt until they are tall enough for the belt to properly secure them and be effective.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of a 5-point harness until the child is 40 pounds.

Not only is it the law to have a child in a car-seat or booster but it is just as important to ensure that your child-restraint device is properly installed.  An improper installation could leave a child in harm’s way. According to Seatcheck.org, a national campaign to help parents properly secure their children in motor vehicles, 96 percent of parents and caregivers believe their child safety seats are installed correctly, while research shows that seven out of ten children are improperly restrained.

According to the site, some of the common mistakes regarding car seat safety are as follows:

  • Not using the right child safety seats for a child’s size and age;
  • Not placing the child safety seat in the correct direction;
  • Incorrect installation of the child safety seat in relation to the vehicle’s air bags;
  • Incorrect installation and tightness of the child safety seat to the vehicle seat;
  • Not securing or tightening the child safety seats harness and crotch straps;
  • Improper use of locking clips for certain vehicle safety belts;
  • Not making sure the vehicle’s seat belts fit properly across the child when using a booster seat;
  • Using a defective or broken child safety seat.

At The Russo Firm, we see victims of car crashes everyday, but nothing is as devastating as seeing a child injured as a result of a crash.  We urge all parents to please help keep their kids safe by using the appropriate restraint device for their child and making sure it is properly installed. For help installing seats properly, including a list of certified technicians to help inspect the installation of your child safety seat,  visit: http://www.safercar.gov/parents/Car-Seat-Safety.htm

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