Following more than a decade of debate, in 2014 Florida finally enacted more stringent regulations regarding the use of child safety seats. The Automobile Collision Attorneys of Alba & Straile, PLLC remind parents of the revisions to child restraint device laws in Florida which go into effect on the first of the year.
Formerly, children age 4 through 5 could be secured by a seatbelt, however, effective January 1, 2015, this is no longer permitted. Under the new law in Florida, the lawful transport of a child aged 5 years or younger, via motor vehicle, requires the use of a federally approved child safety restraint device. If the child is age 3 or younger, the device must be a separate carrier, or a vehicle integrated child safety seat. If the child is age 4 through 5, a separate carrier, integrated device, or a booster seat must be used. An exception to this law, as amended, does exist in circumstances involving: (1) temporary transport; (2) emergency situations; and (3) when a child has documented medical condition necessitating an exception.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of fatality in children. Child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers, ages 1-4. Yet despite this data, as well as the fact that Florida has one of the highest crash rates in the nation, our state’s laws pertaining to child devices have lacked significantly in comparison to regulations adopted by other states. And while recent revisions offer the hope of reducing accident-related fatalities in children there is still room for improvement.
Some reasoning behind Florida’s failure to incorporate restraint laws that adequately address child safety issues can be found, at least in part, in our heavy reliance on the revenue producing tourism industry. It is easy to see how the burden imposed upon a parent in carrying a car or booster seat for a child, over the age of 4, could potentially alter a family’s travel decisions in a manner that affects our state’s tourism economy. Likewise, requiring a car rental agency to provide safety seats would be equally burdensome and could result in increased rental costs or additional fees, which could also impact travel decisions.
Fortunately, many newer vehicles have manufacturer integrated safety seats, which may have played a role in Florida’s recent decision to implement changes to child restraint laws. In addition, recent innovations, such as inflatable federally-approved booster seats, as well as other booster devices that are more lightweight and transportable, may have also contributed to the amendments passed in 2014.
The Injury Attorneys of Alba & Straile, PLLC are happy to see the state put aside lesser concerns—financial interests, tourist inconvenience and/or the imposition of obligations upon car rental agencies—and focus on what is really far more important—ensuring the safety of children by protecting them against injury or fatality. At the same time, we also acknowledge the need for additional legislative action in the future.
In the meantime, we encourage the use of car seat or booster seat at all times while traveling with a child passenger under the age of 6, but also recommend use beyond this age when it is necessary for the child’s safety and protection. For more information on child restraint device safety, see ‘Child Safety Seats: What Every Parent Should Know.’