Florida's Child Car Seat Age Law (Sucks)
Florida does not have a booster seat requirement, as of June 2010. The
Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports that, along with
Arizona and South Dakota, Florida is one of only three states without a
booster seat law. Before you think you have one less thing to worry
about, think again. The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), informed by child
passenger safety consensus, believes you should use a booster seat for
certain children despite what the law says. The only thing that saves Florida's overall child restraint law is relatively stiff punishment. Otherwise, it is weak law covering too few children.
Florida's Car Seat Law: For the Dogs
Florida's Child Restraint Law
Florida's child restraint law covers children up to age 5, but, comparatively speaking, the law is amazingly lax, as of June 2010. In fact, you could argue logically that a parent who does not go above and beyond should be charged with violating child endangerment laws. Florida's car seat law only requires you secure your child in a child restraint device through age 3. Florida gives you the option of using a child restraint device or an adult seat belt for children who are 4 or 5 years of age. The state's separate seat belt law covers all other individuals, 6 years of age and older. If you violate the child restraint law, Florida levies a $60 fine. They also apply three points to your driver's license, which is a strong form of punishment, relative to other state's child restraint laws.
Florida Highway Patrol Recommendations
Despite the lack of a booster seat requirement, the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) provides child passenger safety guidance, informed by the group Buckle Up America, that goes above and beyond Florida law. They suggest that 4-to-8-year old children ride in booster seats. Generally, children transition to a booster seat when they reach a weight of about 40 lbs. Prior to booster seat use FHP recommends you secure toddlers between the ages of 1 and 4 in a forward-facing child seat. Infants should travel rear-facing in an infant car seat until they reach 1 year of age and 20 lbs. Weight parameters vary from car seat to car seat so check your manufacturer's instructions.
Moving to an Adult Seat
The main reason why child passenger safety experts stress booster seat use is that they lift young children up so that adult seat belts fit properly. Generally, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), your child is not seat belt ready until he reaches 4 feet 9 inches tall. Florida's law stops way short of AAP recommendations. Even the toughest laws, which require a booster seat through age 8, are lacking. AAP explains that children often do not reach the 4 feet 9 inch marker until after their 8th birthday. Once your child is tall enough, make sure that the shoulder belt fits across the middle of her chest and the lap belt sits along her upper thighs before saying goodbye to their booster seat.