If you live in Florida, you probably already know how common reckless driving is in your state. Numbers support this claim, as the state registered around 400,000 car accidents per year in the last five years.
Moreover, child passenger mortality rates remain relatively high, as hundreds of children die in car crashes die every year. Most of these tragic outcomes could have been prevented if the child had been correctly restrained in the safety seat.
State car seat laws only apply to kids aged six or younger and allow children to use the vehicle’s seat belt system even if they’re too small. To make things worse, parents often must rely on the seat manufacturer’s instructions to determine the right moment to change the child’s riding position.
Although state laws might be confusing, I think ensuring a child’s safety in traffic doesn’t take much effort. In this guide, I’ll go over the key points of the Florida car seat law and suggest some of the state’s best seat installation and inspection options.
Table of Contents
- 1 Bottom Line Up Front
- 2 In-Depth Guide to Florida Car Seat Laws
- 3 Florida’s Rear-facing and Front-facing Seat Requirements
- 4 Convertible Car Seat Models
- 5 Using Booster Seats and Vehicle Seat Belts
- 6 Car Seat Laws Fines and Penalties
- 7 Florida Car Seat Laws Exceptions
- 8 Occupant Protection Program
- 9 Child Passenger Safety Organizations
- 10 Car Seat Prices
- 11 FAQs
- 12 Final Thoughts
Bottom Line Up Front
Florida car seat laws provide the minimum requirements a parent must meet to ensure their kids have the best possible protection in the event of a potential accident.
Separate carrier devices are mandatory for all infants and toddlers up to 36 months. However, the law doesn’t indicate a suitable riding position for children in this age group. Moreover, under the current car seat law, children older than six are allowed to use adult seat belts.
In-Depth Guide to Florida Car Seat Laws
Interpreting a vaguely defined law is a nightmare, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the legal terminology. Section 316.613 of the Florida Statues doesn’t offer concise guidelines to drivers as it only indicates the essential prerequisites parents must meet to avoid a citation.
Parents in Florid must follow these rules whenever transporting a child younger than six years old:
- All children aged three or younger must be in a ‘crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device.’ Aside from an infant car seat, drivers can also use their vehicle’s built-in child seat.
- Kids between 4 and 6 can ride in booster seats regardless of weight or height.
- Under the current law, booster seats are not mandatory for children older than six, although state authorities recommend using them until they are tall enough to use the seat belt.
- Children younger than 12 shouldn’t sit in the front seat.
Florida seat belt laws require all passengers riding in the front seats to be buckled up regardless of their age, while passengers older than 18 don’t have to wear a belt.
Florida’s Rear-facing and Front-facing Seat Requirements
Most states, including Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas, have car seat laws that require children under a certain age to ride in a rear-facing position. However, the law in Florida doesn’t specify how old a child needs to be before it can switch to a front-facing seat.
Some county authorities indicate that an infant must be at least one year old to ride in a forward-facing position. On the other hand, most seat manufacturers and child passenger safety organizations advise parents to keep using rear-facing seating until a child is at least two years old.
Even though placing a child older than twelve months in a forward-facing position is legal, I recommend using a rear-facing-only car seat until your child outgrows it. Most models have 20lbs to 30lbs weight limits, which makes them suitable for most three-year-olds.
Once the seat’s harness no longer fits your child, you should switch to a bigger seat.
Convertible Car Seat Models
Aside from stating that the car seat must be crash tested and federally approved, the law doesn’t provide any other guidelines parents can rely on while selecting their child’s first car seat.
Hence, you won’t violate any of the state’s child passenger safety regulations if you opt for an all-in-one or a convertible model. All-in-one car seats have higher weight limits than convertible ones, which means you can use them longer.
However, these seats are usually expensive, and opting for a convertible model like Eddie Bauer XRS 65 or Costco APT 50 is a more affordable option. Florida doesn’t have car seat height or weight requirements, but in most cases, you can continue using these seats as long as your child is shorter than 49 inches or weighs under 65lbs.
Whichever model you choose, I recommend reading the owner’s manual carefully because it will help you stay compliant with the state’s car seat laws.
Using Booster Seats and Vehicle Seat Belts
Children in Florida can start using booster seats when they turn four. Nonetheless, most kids at this age don’t meet the weight and height requirements of these seats. So, your child should have at least 40lbs and 35 inches tall before you transition from a convertible to a booster seat.
A highback model such as the Graco TurboBooster best suits kids younger than six. It could be the only booster seat you’ll need if you’re planning to switch to your car’s seat belt system as soon as your child meets the state’s legal age to ride without a separate carrier.
Considering Florida’s high car accident rate, I don’t think it’s advisable to rush a child out of a booster seat, especially if they’re not yet 57-inches tall. Instead, I recommend waiting a few years until your child is at least eight years old and then slowly transitioning to standard seat belts.
Car Seat Laws Fines and Penalties
Primary enforcement laws, like the Florida car seat law, give police officers the right to stop a vehicle and write a ticket if they detect that a child or one of the passengers isn’t adequately restrained. Still, the state’s fine for violating the car seat law is just $60, and three points are added to the driver’s license.
Parents can erase these points if they complete a court-ordered child restraint safety course. State penalties are much harsher if failure to restrain a child properly leads to bodily injury. In these cases, the law recognizes the offense as criminal abuse, and drivers might receive fines up to $5,000 or even prison sentences. Also, parents could get fined for allowing children under 12 to ride in the front seat.
Hence, Florida’s base fines and penalties for car seat law violations are relatively mild in comparison with states like California or Texas and similar to Wyoming’s or Ohio’s. You should remember that all repeated car seat offenses in Florida carry harsher penalties.
Florida Car Seat Laws Exceptions
As a parent, I follow a simple rule. My child is always in their seat with a properly secured harness. I keep track of the latest car seat recalls and do all I can to ensure my son is safe even when we’re riding in vehicles that are exempt from the local car seat laws.
According to the Florida Statutes, these laws don’t apply in the following situations:
- If a child is riding in a vehicle for hire or any other vehicle operated by a driver who isn’t a member of the child’s family.
- Emergency vehicles are not under obligation to use child safety seats while transporting minors.
- Children with medical conditions don’t have to be in infant or booster seats if they’re issued appropriate documentation by a healthcare professional.
School buses and public transportation vehicles aren’t covered by section 316.613 of Florida Statutes and have different safety requirements than passenger vehicles.
Occupant Protection Program
Florida Department of Transportation started the Occupant Protection Program in 2017 to address the state’s high injury and fatality rates resulting from car accidents. The program’s resource center contains information about the latest LATCH manuals, seat recalls, and community events.
It also provides guidelines on becoming a certified child passenger safety professional and assists families that can’t afford a car seat. Visiting the Occupant Protection Resource Center can be helpful if you need financial support to become a CPS instructor or Tech Proxy.
Child Passenger Safety Organizations
All counties in Florida offer extensive support to families and caregivers who don’t know how to install a car seat or use its harness. Police stations and sheriff’s offices often provide car seat installations and inspections for free, and they can answer any questions about the state’s laws parents might have.
Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
In addition to being a trustworthy source of information about car seat laws, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles can assist drivers in finding the nearest fitting station and provide them with instructions on how to install a car seat correctly.
Wolfson Children’s Hospital
North Florida residents can schedule a virtual car seat check with Wolfson Children’s Hospital‘s car safety technicians. The hospital has monthly workshops for discounted car seats that take place at the Safe Kids Buckle Up Inspection Station in Jacksonville.
Florida Farm Bureau Federation
Members of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation can participate in the car seat discount program that enables them to buy a convertible or booster seat for less than $25. However, the program doesn’t include installation training or free seat inspection.
John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
With outpatient care centers in Pasco, Brandon, and countless locations, John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is one of the state’s best providers of pediatric services. It’s also one of the best places for parents to attend car seat classes, acquire an affordable car seat or perform a seat inspection.
Car Seat Prices
Investing in a convertible seat or rear-facing only seat can be a financial burden for new parents. Still, infant car seats for small cars since you can buy a model with excellent safety features for less than $100.
Recaro Pro Convertible Car Seat is a good mid-range option because it is durable, and you can use it until your child is ready to graduate to a booster seat. Although children in Florida don’t have to sit in booster seats after they turn six, you’ll still need one.
I recommend buying a model your kid can comfortably use at least until their 8th birthday since your child might not be ready to switch to a standard seat belt sooner. Prices of backless and highback car seats range from $100 to over $500.
Question: Do Floridians Comply With Car Seat Laws?
Answer: Reports indicate that most Floridians comply with car seat laws, as over 90% of children under the age of three travel restrained in proper seats.
Question: Is it Necessary to Replace a Car Seat That Has Been Recalled?
Answer: Using a recalled or expired seat isn’t illegal in Florida, but you should replace it if some of its features no longer function properly.
Question: Where Can I Dispose of an Old Car Seat in Florida?
Answer: Leaving a car seat at the local recycling center is the easiest way to dispose of a seat you don’t want to use.
Car seat laws in Florida don’t set child safety standards as they only set minimum requirements all drivers must follow while transporting minors. Following the manufacturer’s installation and harness instructions is enough to comply with the state’s car seat law.
In fact, you’ll likely exceed the state’s child passenger safety standards since most manufacturers recommend that children continue riding in booster seats until they’re 4.9-feet tall or eight-year-old. Florida doesn’t have such requirements since all children older than six can use the vehicle’s seat belt regardless of height or weight.