Florida is home to many family-friendly vacation spots and theme parks, including Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. Naturally, parents of younger children want to plan these trips ahead of time.
Florida car seat laws are no exception to the preparation process. Whether you live in-state, or you are just passing through, it is your responsibility to comply with and know the car seat requirements of this state.
Florida Has Lenient Car Seat Laws.
Florida is among the more lenient states when it comes to the requirements for car seat safety. These brief sections make it confusing to parents wanting to comply with the law. However, parents must follow the laws to protect their child and avoid legal consequences. Florida’s car seat laws are governed by section 316.613, and you can view these laws at http://www.leg.state.fl.us. According to Florida law requirements:
- All children ages five and under must ride in a car seat that is crash-tested and federally approved.
- Children from birth to three years old must ride in a child restraint system.
- Children between the ages of four and five must either ride in a child restraint system or a booster seat.
- All children under the age of eighteen must ride in a child restraint system or use a seat belt.
Consequences for Noncompliance
Although Florida laws are more lenient when it comes to car seat usage, law enforcement is strict regarding complying with these laws. Florida’s safety belt law is what is known as a primary enforcement law. This type of implementation means that an officer can stop and give you a citation if they see you are not wearing a seat belt. Law enforcement is just as strict on following car seat laws.
If you are not complying with the car seat requirements, an officer will give you a $60.00 fine. You will also lose three points on your driving record. Florida law also states that you have the option to participate in a child restraint safety course. The court and the judge must approve this course. The course also has to be approved by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. After completion of the course, you will be eligible to waive the consequences of the citation.
Florida’s Requirements for Car Seat Usage
Unlike many other states’ car seat laws, Florida does not require car seat usage by height or weight. Instead, Florida constitutes these requirements by the child’s age. These kinds of conditions make it confusing for parents to understand and follow.
Florida law requires parents to use a seat that has federal approval for their child. All federally approved seats have height and weight requirements. Thus, the condition urges parents to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use the chair and for how long. It is also a recommendation to Florida drivers to follow the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics when it comes to car seat safety. Here are the guidelines parents should follow to comply with Florida law and the AAP:
Rear-facing Car Seat Requirements
There are no requirements of when to use a rear-facing car seat according to Florida law. All federally approved, rear-facing seats have height and weight limit guidelines per the seat manufacturer’s instructions. Parents can use these guidelines to ensure they are following Florida’s law requirements.
The AAP recommends that children stay in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. This recommendation is for children from birth to at least until the age of two.
While Florida law does not state this recommendation specifically, parents should use it for best safety practices. In the event of a car accident, your child will have the most protection when in the rear-facing position.
Forward-facing Car Seat Requirements
Signs of physical readiness for a forward-facing car seat include:
- The child is at least one year old
- The child has out-grown his or her rear-facing car seat
Florida law states that children under the age of five must ride in a car seat. The law gives no further details into this requirement. This requirement leaves parents to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the height and weight limits of the seats. The manufacturer’s instructions will also instruct parents when to move their child into the forward-facing position.
The AAP recommends waiting for the child to reach the age of two before switching to a forward-facing position. The AAP also recommends children stay in a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible.
Many forward-facing seats allow children to ride in them until they reach sixty-five pounds or more. This position offers optimal safety to the child in the event of an accident.
Booster Seat Requirements
Signs of physical readiness for a booster seat include:
- The child has out-grown the harness of their forward-facing car seat
- He/she can sit in the booster seat without slouching
- The child weighs between forty and eighty pounds but has not yet reached four feet, nine inches tall
According to Florida law, children between the ages of four and five may ride in a car seat or a booster seat. Again, Florida law does not specify the exact height and weight requirements before moving a child to a booster seat. Parents should refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on when the child is ready to use a booster seat.
The AAP recommends that children stay in a car seat with a harness until they are physically ready to use a booster. Children are prepared to move into a booster seat when they have reached the height and weight limits of their previous seat.
Children should remain in a booster seat until they can use a seat belt with proper placement.
Seat Belt Requirements
Signs of physical readiness for using a seat belt include:
- The child can sit in the seat of a vehicle without slouching
- The child can sit in the vehicle seat while their knees bend naturally at the edge of the seat
- The lap belt lays low across the child’s thighs
- The shoulder belt lays across the child’s collarbone
Florida law states that children, ages five and under must sit in either a car seat or a booster seat. This section allows children ages six and up to ride in a vehicle using only a seat belt. Florida law also states that a safety belt must restrain all children under the age of eighteen.
The AAP recommends that children only move on from a booster seat when they are physically ready. This recommendation includes the child being able to wear a seat belt properly. According to the AAP, children are prepared to move out of a booster once they reach the height of four foot, nine inches. In most cases, this milestone usually happens between the ages of ten and twelve.
Car Seat Laws & Public Transportation
There are exceptions to Florida’s car seat laws on public transportation. Public transportation includes buses, trains, planes, and chauffeur options.
Public transport options are not required to comply with Florida’s car seat requirements. However, it is the parents’ responsibility to comply with Florida law and prepare their children for safe transportation.
Buses and Trains
Buses and trains are built to provide optimal safety to passengers of all ages. Because of their size and the design of their seats, buses and trains are not required to provide safety belts. Using a car seat on buses or trains prove to be unproductive and unsafe.
Some long-distance travel buses like the Greyhound offer safety belts to their passengers. In this case, it is at the parents’ discretion to decide whether or not to use a car seat. Regardless, car seat usage is not a requirement of Florida law on buses or trains.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, there are specific car seats you can use on aircraft. Most infant, forward-facing, or combination car seats have certification for use on airplanes. Booster seats, however, are deemed unsafe for airline travel.
It is not required by law to use car seats on planes. The Federal Aviation Administration does highly recommend the use of car seats for children from birth to four years of age. The FAA also recommends parents call their specific airline to make sure their chair is applicable to use on the flight.
According to Florida laws, chauffeur-driven transportation does not require the use of car seats. This exemption includes taxis, limousines, vans, and buses. Florida law states the car seat requirements are exempt for vehicles that are used and compensated for public transportation.
This section of the car seat law also refers to drivers who are not directly related to the child and emergency vehicles. The section includes drivers of children who have a medical condition that exempts them from having to use car seats. The section states that it is the parent’s responsibility to comply with the car seat requirements for their children’s safety.
Uber and Lyft
Other chauffeur-driven transportation also includes systems like Uber and Lyft. According to Florida law, these drivers are exempt from the car seat requirements. Parents, however, are still required to abide by the Florida car seat laws.
Uber and Lyft drivers can decline their services to parents who do not have proper seats for their children. They are not required by Florida law to make those decisions.
Uber has an option called the Uber Car Seat, formally known as UberFamily, in Orlando, Florida. Within the family-friendly environment, Uber creates a safe alternative for parents traveling in the Orlando area.
Uber Car Seat is only available in select locations around the United States and has restrictions you must comply with to use this service. The limits include one child per ride, and the child must weigh between twenty-five and sixty pounds. At this time, Lyft does not have any car seat-friendly promotions.
Uber Car Seat Includes
- One car seat a child can use in the Uber for $10.00 on top of the standard fare
- A family-friendly transportation option without the inconvenience of carrying around a car seat at the destination
- Available from the Orlando airport
- Suitable for children between the ages of two and six
Florida law is very vague when it comes to car seat requirements. The vagueness confuses parents who are trying to comply with the law. The Florida Department of Transportation recommends that parents follow the recommendations of the AAP for optimal safety practices.
Florida law requires the minimum recommendations for car seat safety. If you follow your car seat manufacturer’s instructions, you will be complying with the law.
For more information on Florida’s car seat laws, you can visit www.flhsmv.gov or www.fdot.gov. For more information on the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on car seat safety, you can visit www.healthychildren.org or www.aap.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can an Uber driver be responsible for noncompliance with Florida car seat laws?
According to Florida law, it is the parent’s responsibility to comply with the car seat requirements on public transportation.
At what age can a child ride in the front seat of a vehicle?
Florida law does not specify an age requirement for children riding in the front seat of a vehicle. Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles recommends children, under the age of twelve, ride in the rear seats of the car to avoid injury from deployed airbags.
How do I know which car seat to purchase for my child?
The FLHSMV recommends parents to follow the AAP’s recommendations for car seat safety. You can also visit www.nhtsa.gov for a car seat guide to help choose which type of car seat is best suited for your child.
How do I know if the installation of my car seat is correct?
You can visit your local car seat inspection site to have a professional check your seat. These Certified Passenger Safety Technicians will teach you how to properly install your chair and make sure you are using it correctly.