An Overview of Florida Child Restraint and Seat Belt Laws – Governor Crist Brought Big Changes in 2009

After decades as a “secondary offense” state, meaning that a police officer could not pull you over simply for not wearing a seat belt, but had to observe some other road violation before doing so, Florida reversed course in 2009. As a result of a tougher seat belt law, which was signed by Governor Charlie Crist and went into effect on June 30, 2009, Florida motorists can now be stopped and ticketed solely for not wearing seat belts in the front seat. Violators will face a $30 fine and other legal assessments.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation, the latest Florida Child Restraint Law requires that all children 5 years of age or younger must be properly restrained no matter where they are sitting in the vehicle. Children through age 3 must be secured in a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child safety seat. For children aged 4 to 5 years, a separate carrier, an integrated child safety seat, or a safety belt must be used. (FL Statute 316.613). The penalty for violating the Child Restraint Law is a $60 fine and 3 points.

There is no requirement in Florida law that children ride in the back seat of vehicles, however, the National Safety Council recommends that children under the age of 12 should not ride in the front seat. Since the National Safety Council launched its Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign, which educates parents about child safety in cars, there has been an 18% reduction in overall fatalities of children under the age of 12. More importantly, there has been a 46% reduction in front seat fatalities.

Beginning in 1998, all new passenger cars and light trucks were required to have both driver and passenger airbags and safety belts. While it is estimated that air bags save over 1,000 lives a year, they can be dangerous for children under the age of 12. Because children are shorter than adults, the airbags designed to save adult lives can be deadly to children when they deploy. Airbags inflate in less than 1/25th of a second (faster than the blinking eye), and the force can snap a young child’s neck if it strikes at the right angle. Many automakers are now installing “smart” airbags that can deploy at slower speeds, or not deploy at all, depending on the severity of an accident or the weight of a person in the front passenger seat.

About 3,000 Floridians die each year in car accidents. Of these, nearly 2/3 were passengers in someone else’s car.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of others, contact David Benenfeld, an experienced Florida car accident attorney, today at (954) 677-0155 or (866) 943-5766 for legal advice.