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Child Restraint Device Law in Florida

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Personal Injury

In observance of the fact that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in children, the Automobile Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. find it important to address child restraint device law in Florida, with the goal of promoting safety and awareness.

In 2013, the state of Florida reported 13,658 child restraint-related violations. Although this figure is down from those in prior years—14,800 in 2012 and 16,853 in 2011—the failure to use child safety restraint devices in accordance with traffic control laws, remains a problem in our state. While nobody can control the actions of other motorists, such as those that operate their vehicles in negligent, reckless, unlawful manner, parents and other caregivers can aide in the reduction and prevention of injuries and fatalities by taking proper safety precautions to protect their most precious cargo—children.

Florida’s Child Safety Seat Laws

Pursuant to Florida Statute §316.613, child restraint devices must be utilized whenever transporting a child, aged 5 years or younger, in a motor vehicle that is operated on the roadways, streets, or highways of this state. Restraint device requirements are as follows:

Children aged 3 years of younger:

  • Separate carrier; or
  • Vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child seat
Children aged 4 through 5 years:

  • Separate carrier; or
  • Vehicle integrated child seat; or
  • Booster seat

There are exceptions to the general rule regarding safety restraint device requirements for children ages 4 through 5. Such children may be restrained by a safety belt, as opposed to a child restraint device, however, only in circumstances where the child:

  • Is being transported gratuitously by an operator who is not a member of the child’s immediate family; or
  • Is being transported in a medical emergency situation involving the child; or
  • Has a medical condition that necessitates an exception as evidenced by appropriate documentation from a health care professional.

NOTE: The preceding and foregoing include 2014 revisions to child safety restraint device laws in Florida which go into effect January 1, 2015.

Adhering to Child Safety Seat Laws

A common area of misconception relates to which person has the duty and obligation to adhere to child restraint device laws—the driver or the parent/guardian/other person responsible for the child? Generally speaking, it is the responsibility of the person operating the vehicle to provide for protection of the child, by ensuring the child is properly secured.

Motorists often assume that if they are traveling with a child and the child’s parent as passenger, that the responsibility for adhering to child restraint laws would be the parent’s. However, this is only true in cases where the operator of the motor vehicle is hired for compensation, such as with a chauffeur-driven taxi, limousine, sedan, van, bus, motor coach, or other passenger vehicle used for the transportation of persons for compensation.

To view information on the impact of child restraint device use on personal injury claims, see ‘Comparative Negligence & Child Safety Seat Violations in Florida.’

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Penalties

In addition to a $60 fine, violators are subject to a 3 point assessment against their driver’s license. In lieu of penalty, a person who violates Florida’s Child Restraint Device Law, upon court approval, may participate in a child restraint safety program, pursuant to Fla. Stat §316.613(5). In some cases, particularly those involving more serious violations or repeat offenders, the court may impose fines and/or points, in addition to ordering the violator to participate in a safety course.

The course must be approved by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Fees associated with such a course shall be the responsibility of the violator. However, the fee for the course must bear a reasonable relationship to the cost of providing the course. To access course information regarding Child Restraint Occupancy Protection provided through the Florida Safety Council pursuant to the Child Restraint Offender Program, go to FloridaSafetycouncil.org.