Is your child less than 6 years old? Then you need to put them in a child safety seat every time they go for a ride, no matter how big they are. It’s the law in Florida as of last month.
For years, child safety advocates have struggled to raise awareness over the continued need to use safety car seats even after a child is no longer an infant. They’ve been trying to get a law passed requiring the seats, which can save children’s lives, for 10 years. This year they finally succeeded.
The exact requirement is that all children through 5 years of age (that is, until they turn 6) must be in a child restraint device. That doesn’t have to be a safety seat, often known as a “booster” seat because it helps the tiny child fill out an adult-size seat belt. But the alternative is a special car seat with a five-point harness, which few vehicles have.
The requirement is by no means revolutionary. In fact, until last month Florida was among the last states in the nation to require safety seats only through age 3. Even the new law won’t have Floridians leading the way in child safety, as many other states require restraint devices to even older ages. Child safety seat companies manufacture seats for four distinct age groups running all the way up to age 12.
To many parents, putting an 11-year-old in a booster seat may sound like overkill. But it’s important to remember that these seats save lives and reduce the severity of injuries. An 11-year-old may be old enough to do a lot of things on their own, but they aren’t nearly as big as a full-grown adult, and it’s the size of their body that affects whether a grown-up seat belt will work for them.
For now, the new law is a step forward but the results may not be immediate. Just as seat belts weren’t popular when they first came out, it may take a while for parents across the state to comply—but every parent who does so is potentially saving a life. Likewise, parents need to make sure they choose and use the right safety seat.
At Steinger, Iscoe & Greene we’ve seen enough children injured in car accidents to know how high the stakes are. We applaud Florida’s new law and any other steps forward in protecting children on the roads.