The state of Florida requires that children ride in proper child restraints while traveling in a motor vehicle as a preventive measure against physical injury during an accident. "Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the U.S.," according to the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents in Florida must know and abide by the child car seat requirements in their state. The following are state requirements as of September 2010.
Infants to 1 Year Old
For babies and small children who weigh less than 20 pounds, Florida state law requires that children be placed, with the correct posture, in a federally-approved child car seat. The correct child car seat for babies and small children is a rear-facing car seat. A rear-facing car seat compensates for the physical inability that babies and small children have when it comes to handling abrupt stops or the impact of a car accident.
Up to 3 Years Old
Children who weigh more than 20 pounds, up to 3 years old, must also ride in a child car seat in the state of Florida. "This is an explicit state requirement," states Infant-Car-Seats.com. These car seats are front-facing, federally-approved models that are secured to the seat in the car with a standard seat buckle. The child is then placed, with the correct posture, into the car seat and restrained with its harness-like safety straps.
4 to 5 Years Old
It is optional for children ages 4 through 5 years old to ride in a child car seat. Some models are designed to accommodate their size, but what is strongly suggested by the state of Florida is that they ride in booster seats once they outgrow their car seats, even though it is not state law.
Florida does allow 4- to 5-year-olds to ride in a motor vehicle with adult seat belt restraints, but booster seats are recommended up to 8 years old, or as the Broward Sheriff's Office states, "Children from approximately 40 to 80 pounds and under 4-feet, 9-inches in height should ride in a booster seat."
Adult Seat Belt Restraint
While riding with a seat belt is permissible for ages 4 to 5, it is required of any older child, and adults, when they ride in a motor vehicle in the state of Florida.
Riding in the Front Seat
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the state of Florida does not have a stated preference for the rear seat. However, "All children ages 12 years and younger should ride in the back seat," says the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The other concern regarding children and the front seat is the airbag. For this reason alone, infants and children must not ride in the front seat of a vehicle that has a deployable airbag due to the risk of serious injury from the force of the airbag as it inflates. As the Sheriff's Office of Broward County, Florida, states, "Never place a child in a child safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with a passenger air bag---always use the back seat."
Violations of the Florida child car seat requirements most notably put children at risk of serious injury or even worse, loss of life. Violators face a fine and points on their driving records. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the fine, as of September 2010, is $60, and the amount of points is then assessed by the state for the violation.