As of January 1, 2015, children must be restrained in a car or booster seat until the age of 6. Failure to do so results in three points on the driving license and a fine.
As a new father of twins and Aventura car accident lawyer, child-seat safety is a topic near and dear to my heart. Please forward this legal update and safety tips to any parents of young children that you know.
The ACP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends that children in automobiles be restrained in a car seat or booster seat until they reach a height of 4’, 9. The average American child reaches this height between the ages of eight and twelve years old. Prior to 2015, Florida law only required children in automobiles to be restrained in a car seat until the age of three years old. Needless to say, Florida had one of the least restrictive child-passenger safety laws in the United States. This is strange because Florida has one of the highest car accident rates in the nation and auto accidents are one of the leading causes of death for children. This is partially because, without the extra protection provided by a car seat or booster seat, seat belts crossing over a child’s stomach can result in significant internal organ damage in a car collision. The risk of injury goes down by approximately 45% when you compare using a booster seat with using only a regular seat belt.
As a car accident lawyer, we see too many injuries to children that could have been avoided. Certainly, there are many times when my injured clients could not have done anything to avoid a collision. However, even if the accident itself is unavoidable, why not take every precaution to minimize the resulting injuries?
0-35 Pounds (Seat Should Face Backwards)
The ACP recommends child car seats remain rear facing until the child weighs over 35 pounds. This typically occurs at around age two (guidelines may vary slightly depending on the car seat product – check with the car seat manual for specific guidelines). According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV), absolutely no child should be in a car seat facing forward until they weigh a minimum of 20 pounds and are at least one-year old.
35–55 Pounds (Seat Can Face Forwards)
The car seat should still have a double shoulder harness until child reaches the upper weight and height limit as indicated by the car-seat manufacturer (again, check the manual, but its usually between 40 and 60 pounds).
Until Child Reaches Height of Four Feet, Nine Inches
Child should use a booster seat, which must be secured according to the manufacturer’s instruction manual (very important as the safety-enhancing features can be diminished if used incorrectly). Most children reach a height of 4’, 9 between the ages of 8 and 12 years. The FHSMV reminds us that these booster seats should only be used in the back seat of a car.
After growing out of the booster seat, the FHSMV also reminds us that children are still safest in the back seat and must wear seat belts. Only after age 13 should children be permitted to ride up front.
Jason Neufeld is a personal-injury attorney based out of Aventura, FL, but handles cases all over South and Central Florida. For a free consultation call 305.931.6666 | 954-523-8292.