Today I did some research on child safety seat laws after talking with a friend about car seats. I thought I knew the child safety seat laws for the state of Florida, but after our discussion, I realized that we had different ideas on the actual "law" in Florida.
I was surprised to find out just how diverse the child safety seat laws are across the country. One state might require a child to be in a booster seat until they are 8 years old AND 80 lbs., while another might only require that a child is in a car seat until age 3.
I am disappointed that Florida has some of the least stringent laws regarding child safety seats in the country. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website, in Florida a child 3 years and younger must be in a child restraint, and children 4-5 years old are permitted to wear adult safety belt. With that said, technically none of my children are required to be in a safety seat of any sort. I'm not good with that. My youngest is 4, but is only 35 lbs, and my 7 year old is only 42 lbs. I do not feel that either one of them should be riding in a vehicle without some sort of child safety seat. In the case of my 4 year old, he is currently in a traditional car seat, while my 7 year old is in a high-back booster seat. To be honest, my 10.5 year old just stopped using a backless booster seat last year, and is about 65 lbs.
I tend to lean on the side of caution and safety, and prefer the guidelines set out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA advises parents of four steps to help protect their children while riding in a vehicle.
1. Infants - from birth to at least 1 year old and at least 20 pounds For the best possible protection keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until a minimum of age 1 and at least 20 pounds.
2. Toddlers - Age 1 & 20 lbs to Age 4 & 40 lbs When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at a minimum age 1 and at least 20 pounds) they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).
3. Children - from about age 4 to at least age 8 Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9” tall).
4. Tweens - age 8 and older When children outgrow their booster seats, (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9” tall) they can use the adult seat belt in the back seat, if it fits properly (lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest).
I would encourage everyone to find out the child restraint laws in their state. If the laws in your state seem a bit lax, you may want to adopt the guidelines set forth by the NHTSA. Sometimes meeting the minimum standard just isn't enough when it comes to the safety of our children.