Everything You Need to Know About Florida Car Seat Laws
If you’re a parent in Florida and you’re looking for the latest information on Florida Car Seat laws, you have come to the right place. This complete guide describes in detail all of the car seat laws in Florida. But you should realize these laws are just the minimum requirements. This guide will describe the current Florida state car seat laws; identify all of the flaws in the law; and make safety recommendations that go above and beyond the law. These recommendations will be simple to employ and give your infant, toddler, or young child the best possible chance of surviving a car accident without injury. But if you want a very detailed understanding of all there is to know about car seat safety, you can also check out our Complete Car Seat Safety Guide.
FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAW TABLE OF CONTENTS
- FLORIDA CHILD RESTRAINT LAWS: THE OFFICIAL STATUTE
- FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAWS: HEIGHT AND WEIGHT REQUIREMENTS
- WHEN TO USE A REAR FACING CAR SEAT IN FLORIDA
- WHEN TO USE A FORWARD FACING CAR SEAT IN FLORIDA
- WHEN TO USE A BOOSTER SEAT IN FLORIDA
- WHEN CAN A CHILD START USING A SEAT BELT IN FLORIDA
- FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAWS: TAXI, UBER, LYFT
- FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAWS APPLY TO CHILD NEGLECT CASES
- FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAWS APPLY TO CIVIL CASES FOR MONEY DAMAGES
FLORIDA CHILD RESTRAINT LAWS: THE OFFICIAL STATUTE
Child car seat restraint requirements in Florida are governed by section 316.613 Fla. Stat. Unfortunately, this statute is not very detailed and is not easy for parents to understand. Furthermore, if you only follow the minimum requirements of the law, you risk endangering your child in an automobile accident. The statute makes it a requirement for all children that are 5 years old or younger to use a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint system. It then goes on to define what type of child car seat must be used at each age of your child. Unfortunately, the specific types of car seats are only vaguely defined in the statute. Section 316.613 of the Florida Statutes creates the following requirements for car seat use:
- Florida law requires infants and toddlers from birth through age 3 to be in a separate carrier device or a manufacturer’s integrated child seat.
- Florida law requires children 4 years old through 5 years old to be in a separate carrier device, an integrated child’s seat or a child’s booster seat.
- Florida law gives children 6 years old and older the option of continuing to use a booster seat or begin using a regular seat belt.
Penalties for not following the law can include a $60.00 fine and 3 points against your driver’s license. Furthermore, you risk injury or death to your child in an automobile accident.
FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAWS: HEIGHT AND WEIGHT REQUIREMENTS
Unfortunately, Florida law does not directly address at what weight and or height you should use each type of car seat. Instead the Florida statute only references age limits. But the statute does indirectly create child weight limits for each type of car seat because the statute requires parents to use a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint system.
The American academy of pediatrics and all federally approved car seats base their guidelines on infant, toddler, and child weight and or height but not on age. They do this because every child grows at different rates. Furthermore, age limits create arbitrary cutoffs. On the other hand, height and weight requirements for each type of child car seat ensure the safest possible outcome in a car accident. By following the manufacturers recommendations on use for the car seat you buy you will not only be following Florida law, you will also be doing the safest thing for your child. Click on this car seat safety guide for more information on this issue.
WHEN TO USE A REAR FACING CAR SEAT IN FLORIDA
Florida law does not specifically address when to use a rear facing car seat. This can be very confusing to parents trying to comply with Florida law. But there is no need to worry about this because every rear facing car seat owner’s manual gives specific recommendations of when to use it and at what weight to stop using it. Furthermore, when you follow the manufacturers recommendations for the rear facing car seat you buy, you will automatically be complying with Florida state car seat laws for rear facing children. The following are the basic things you should know:
- Your infant should start in a rear facing car seat right from the hospital.
- There is no recommended age to switch your baby from rear facing to forward facing. The current national guidelines state that it is safest to keep your baby in a rear facing car seat for as long as the manufacturers guidelines will allow. This means your baby will remain rear facing as a toddler.
- If you are using a rear facing infant car seat, your baby will probably outgrow it around 20 to 25 pounds. It may be legal to switch to a forward facing car seat once your baby meets this milestone. But the safest thing to do is switch to a larger rear facing car seat where your child should remain until reaching around 40 to 45 pounds. For some children, this means they will still be in a rear facing car seat at 4 years old.
WHEN TO USE A FORWARD FACING CAR SEAT IN FLORIDA
There are no specific Florida forward facing car seat laws. This means Florida car seat laws not only fail to tell parents when to start using a forward facing car seat, they also do not tell parents when to stop using a forward facing car seat. Once again, this means you should follow the manufacturers guidelines.
Although some manufacturers suggest switching to a forward facing car seat at around 25 pounds, the safest thing to do is to wait to begin using a forward facing car seat until your child is at least 40 to 45 pounds. This means your child may be 4 years old before you make the switch.
WHEN TO USE A BOOSTER SEAT IN FLORIDA
Once your child outgrows a forward facing car seat, the next step is a booster seat. Florida booster seat laws are too lenient. Florida law allows a child to start using a booster seat at age 4. Most experts agree that this is way too young. In general, your child is ready for a booster seat when they outgrow the weight or height limit for their forward facing car seat. This occurs at weights of up to 85 pounds and a height of at least 35 inches. The safest thing to do is make sure your child meets all of these milestones before switching to a booster seat:
- Your child has outgrown the internal harness of your forward facing car seat.
- Your child is between 40 and 80 pounds and is at least 35 inches tall but not yet 4’9” tall.
- Your child cannot sit with their back against the vehicle seat with knees bending at the edge of the seat cushion without slouching.
WHEN CAN A CHILD START USING A SEAT BELT IN FLORIDA
Florida law allows a child to stop using a booster seat and begin using an adult seat belt when they turn 6 years old. For most kids, this is way to young. Adult seat belts are designed for 165-pound men. They are extremely dangerous in an auto accident for young children that are not tall enough for the lap and shoulder belts to rest in the proper place. When the lap portion of the belt is not properly positioned it can cause young kids’ serious injury to the intestines, liver and or spleen. When the shoulder belt portion is not properly positioned, it can ride high across a young child’s neck causing spine fractures and even paralysis from the whipping back and forth motion of a car crash.
All safety experts agree that children should be at least 4’9” tall and at least 8 years old before they begin using an adult seat belt. This means most children will be 10 or 11 before they stop using a booster seat. In addition to the height and age recommendations, you should also make sure of the following:
- Your child’s entire back is touching the back seat
- Your child’s knees bend at the edge of the seat and their back is not slouching over.
- The lap portion of the belt crosses as low as possible and touches the thighs
- The shoulder portion of the belt rests across the collar bone between the shoulder and the neck but not touching the neck.
- Your child can sit in this position the entire time in the car.
FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAWS: TAXI, UBER, LYFT
Florida car seat laws exempt chauffeur-driven taxi, limousine, sedan, van, bus, motor coach, or other passenger vehicles if the operator and the motor vehicle are hired and used for the transportation of persons for compensation. The Florida courts have not formally interpreted this language. More than likely this means that the taxi driver, bus driver, Uber driver, Lyft driver, and the companies they work for are not legally responsible for ensuring your infant, toddler, or child is using a car seat. So the driver will probably not get a ticket if you do not require your child to use a car seat. But that does not mean you can get away with not using a car seat with a taxi, uber, lyft, or bus. The driver can still refuse to take you. In addition, section 316.613(6) of the Florida statutes specifically says it is the responsibility of the parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare to comply with the requirements of the statute. This means you would probably get a ticket for not requiring you child to use a car seat even though the taxi, uber, or lift driver does not get a ticket.
FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAWS APPLY TO CHILD NEGLECT CASES
In Florida, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is responsible for child welfare. DCF has the power to charge a family with abuse or neglect when there is harm or threat of harm to a child’s physical or mental health or welfare. Remedies can include child supervision and even taking a child from a family in extreme cases. This broad definition probably gives DCF the power in Florida to charge a family with abuse or neglect for failure to use a proper car seat. It is certainly possible for DCF to get involved for failing to use a proper car seat even if it only occurred on one occasion. But this would probably not happen if the child was not injured because the law makes this a traffic offense. On the other hand, if there was a pattern of failing to use a car seat or there was severe injury it is much more likely that DCF would get involved.
We could only find two written orders involving DCF and car seats. Both orders involved DCF charging a family member with neglect for leaving children in their car seat in the car by themselves. In one case a mother left her child in a car seat in the car with the motor running for approximately 2 to 7 minutes. The court concluded this was not neglect and was at most a violation of a non-criminal traffic law. In another case, a father left his child in a car seat in a hot car with the motor off for 30 to 45 minutes. The court concluded abuse and or neglect occurred in this case. The difference in the outcomes of the two cases is probably the length of time the child was left in the car and the use or non-use of the air conditioner.
In addition to DCF charges of abuse or neglect, it is also possible that you could get charged for a crime in Florida by the state attorney in the county where you live for criminal neglect for not using a car seat. Like DCF, most state attorneys would probably not prosecute a case for criminal neglect unless there was serious injury and or multiple documented failures to use a car seat.
FLORIDA CAR SEAT LAWS APPLY TO CIVIL CASES FOR MONEY DAMAGES
In Florida, an injured party has the right to bring a civil lawsuit for money damages when someone negligently causes that party personal injury. Car seat laws come into play in personal injury cases in several ways. One example involves a lawsuit brought on behalf of the injured child for injuries caused by a family member or care giver not using a proper child car seat. Under these circumstances, failure to comply with Florida child car seat laws can be used as evidence the family member or care giver was negligent. For a detailed discussion of this issue you can read this Florida case.
On the other hand, section 316.613(6) of the Florida car seat law prevents a negligent party from using it as a shield to reduce their responsibility for their actions. For example, if a child is injured in a car crash negligently caused by the person driving the other car, that person would not be able to reduce their responsibility for the injuries they caused simply because the parents did not comply with Florida car seat laws.