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Proper use of Child Safety Seats: What Every Parent Should Know

While failing to use a child safety seat altogether is both dangerous and unlawful, what the Automobile Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC find even more concerning is that nearly three-quarters of children that are secured in a safety seat, are not buckled in properly. What this tells us is that although many parents are indeed making a valid effort to protect their children and abide by the law, they are either not using the right type of car seat, or the proper seat is being used, but in an improper manner.

Appropriate Seat Choice.

In selecting the proper restraint device, it is important to consider the child’s: (1) Age; (2) Height; and (3) Weight. Other factors may need to be taken into consideration, depending upon the specific needs of a child. For example, where the child has learned how to unlatch the restraint device or wiggle out of the harness or safety straps, a more secure device may be needed.  This is particularly important when the child has a known tendency to free themselves from restraint devices. Although it may be necessary to purchase multiple seats in the carrier and/or booster stages, ensuring the safety of our most precious cargo should always takes precedence.

Proper Installation & Use.

When installing and utilizing a child restraint device, there are several factors that should be considered, including:

  • Seat direction
  • Location of Airbags
  • Harness/ Strap Tightness/Tension
  • Seatbelt Adjustment/ Use of locking clips, keeping in mind the:
    • child’s size
    •  restraint device being used; and
    • vehicle type

Other Device-related issues.

Purchasing or using a previously-owned car or booster seat is never recommended, and for several reasons. Examples of safety concerns include: (1) broken seats; (2) product recalls due to defects; and (3) seats involved in prior accidents. In situations where a previously owned restraint device is used, parents can ensure device safety by:

  • Having the seat inspected at an approved seat-check location; and
  • Routinely checking for consumer product recalls, through official sources such as

Minimum Requirements pursuant to State Law versus Child Safety.

Although Florida only requires the use of child restraint devices for children through the age of 5, the safety benefits of using a booster seat extend far beyond a child reaching 6 years of age. In fact, the use of restraint devices in children aged 6 or older, although not required by law, can be vital to ensuring the child’s optimal safety, depending on their size, height, weight, or other factors. As provided in FLHSMV’s Child Safety Seat Brochure, the following guidelines should be adhered to whenever traveling with a child in your vehicle:

Age, Weight, Height Range Safety Recommendations
Birth (any weight)-through-1 year old (20 lbs)
  • Use a rear-facing child car seat in the back seat of the car.

1 years old (20+ lbs)-through-4 years old (40 lobs)
  • Use a rear-facing child car seat in the back seat until they outgrow the weight and height limit of the child car seat.
  • Normally when children are over 1 year old and weigh over 20 pounds, you can switch to a forward-facing car seat in the back of the car if you must but rear-facing is best so long as it is within the weight and height limit of the car seat.
4 years old (40+ lbs)-through-8 years (4’9’’ tall)
  • Use a forward-facing child seat in the back seat until they reach the weight and height limits recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Switch to a booster seat in the back of the car.

8 years old or 4’9’’ tall-through-12 years
  • Use a booster seat in the back seat until your child is big enough to use the car’s seat belt.
  • At 13 years old, your child can sit in the front seat of your car.

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