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Finally, children in Florida will be a little bit safer as they are transported on state roads. Beginning January 1 (Thursday), children ages 4 and 5 are required to sit in a child safety seat or a booster seat rather than only being buckled in a seat belt. According to the CDC, booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45 percent for children ages 4-8 years when compared with seat belt use alone. Child-safety advocates struggled for years to achieve this tightening of the law, which has been one of the weakest nationwide. Until state lawmakers approved the tougher requirement, Florida and South Dakota were the only states that didn’t require booster seats for children after they turned 3.

“Safety belts save lives, but only when used and used correctly,” said Terry Rhodes, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. “Booster seats help elevate children to the height at which the safety belt will properly secure them.” Five children died in 2013 and 150 were injured in traffic crashes in Florida because restraints weren’t being used or were being used incorrectly. So far, the 2014 numbers are on track with five deaths and 145 injuries. Although the law goes up just to age 6, the Florida Highway Patrol and child-safety boosters recommend some children use them longer. Many children may need booster seats beyond the age required by law, depending on the size of the child and where the seat belt crosses the body. The following recommendations can help determine if your child, after age 5, is ready to wear a seatbelt without a booster seat:

  • the child is at least 4’9″ tall;
  • the child can sit all the way back in the seat and bend knees at the edge of the seat;
  • the shoulder belt lays across the chest, not the neck;
  • the lap belt lays across the upper thighs, not the stomach.

Children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat of the vehicle for additional safety.

Drivers can get a three point moving violation for not abiding by the new law. A judge has the ability to waive it as long as the driver attends a parenting class and gets the required seat.
During the month of January, AAA offices in Florida will be giving away free booster seats. AAA asks that parents make appointments as supply is limited. The free seats are for children four and over.

The state’s Child Passenger Safety technicians can help answer parent questions about child seat safety. For more information, visit

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Our legal team consists of attorney Wm. Dennis Brannon and his son C. Paul Brannon. We work together as a father and son team to provide our clients with exceptional service and solutions in motor vehicle accident claims and other personal injury matters.
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