Florida Lags Behind 47 States in Child Booster Seat Safety Requirements

Florida is one of only three states in the country that has yet to enact legislation requiring children six and older or too small for lap and shoulder belts to be placed in booster seats or integrated systems. A bill (Senate Bill 238) was proposed in the 2011 legislative session to close the gap, but failed to be enacted. Apparently, the Legislature considered it more important to benefit Corporate America, by re-allocating liability in crashworthiness cases, than protect its children.

Florida requires that children three and younger be restrained in a federally approved child restraint device consisting of a separate carrier or a vehicle-manufactured integrated child seat, and that children four and five-years old be restrained in a separate device, the integrated seat, or just the auto manufacturer’s seat belt. Florida Statute Section 316.613(1)(a).

Florida law places no safety requirements on children over six or for those children who are too small to be safely protected by the manufacturer’s shoulder harness and belt system.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “[m]otor vehicle crashes represent the leading cause of death for children and youth oder than three years in the United States.” It has made the following recommendations:

  1. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until two years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer;
  2. All children two years of age or older, and those that have outgrown a rear-facing car seat, should ride in a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer; and
  3. All children whose weight and height is above the forward-facing car seat system should use a belt-positioning booster seat until they can be properly fitted with a vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt, which typically occurs between 8 and 12 years of age. (Technical Report – Child Passenger Safety, 127 Pediatrics 4, E1050 (April 2011)).

(The NHTSA has made similar recommendations.)

Senate Bill 238 would have brought Florida closer in line to the safety recommendations made by the nation’s top experts. Inexplicably, the Florida Legislature chose to ignore the recommendations.

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