Florida Car Seat Laws

Many Fort Lauderdale residents wind up as personal drivers for the most important passengers of all…their children. Children sometimes have busier schedules than their parents. They have to be shuttled to school, to doctor’s appointments, to soccer practice, or just to the mall.

Children of all ages end up spending a lot of time in the family vehicle. With the rush of local traffic and the number of careless drivers out there, Florida has strict rules on who should be in a car seat and what type of car seats should be used.

Hazards for Children Who Aren’t in Car Seats

Car seats and their proper use are critical to the safety of every child passenger. Traffic accidents are the number one cause of death for children in the U.S.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports that there were 85 child deaths in accidents recorded across that state in 2022. In those tragic incidents, almost half of the victims weren’t properly restrained.

When Does My Child Need to Be in a Car Seat in Florida?

The FLHSMV guidelines remind parents that it’s not just babies who belong in car seats. Basically, all children 5 and younger must be in a car seat.

Overall, Florida’s seat belt laws require the use of seat belts or child restraint devices by drivers of motor vehicles, all front seat passengers, and all children riding in a vehicle under 18.

The rules for child passengers go into further detail:

  • Children ages 4 through 5 must be in a separate carrier, integrated child seat, or booster seat.
  • Children ages 0 to 3 must be in child restraint devices of a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child seat.

You can find out more about the official statutes that govern child car seat requirements in Florida by reading Statute 316.613 Child Restraint Requirements.

What Types of Car Seats Are Legal in Florida?

Florida law requires children age 5 and under to be secured properly in a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device.

You’ll find guidance on purchasing a car seat that will fit your child and finding one that is federally approved on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. You’ll want to register your child car seat immediately after buying one so you can be informed of any important safety recalls.

When looking for the best car seats available, you should know about the four different types of child restraints and at what age your child can use them.

Types of Child Restraints:

  • Seat Belt: A child should remain in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.
  • Booster Seat: In Florida, children ages 4 through 5 must be in a separate carrier, integrated child seat, or booster seat. Once a child outgrows a forward-facing car seat, children can travel in a booster seat, always in the back seat. If a vehicle does not have a backseat, the booster seat should be used with the airbag turned off.
  • Forward-Facing Car Seat: A child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Keep a child rear-facing as long as possible, usually until age 2 or 3. If the vehicle does not have a backseat, the forward-facing car seat should be used with the airbag turned off.
  • Rear-Facing Car Seat: A rear-facing car seat is the best seat for a child under age 2 to use. Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position to keep a child rear-facing for a longer period of time. If the vehicle does not have a backseat, the rear-facing car seat should be used with the airbag turned off.

Child Seat Fitting Stations in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County

Child seat fitting stations are spots where a certified technician will check over your seatbelts and car seats to make sure they will keep your child safe. You can also receive help with installing a child seat.

There are many official fitting stations in Broward County. The locations include youth centers, sheriff’s office locations, and fire departments.

The main Broward County Sheriff’s Office location on 2601 West Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale is an official location. There are also stations at the Deerfield Beach, Cooper City, and Weston offices among others. Some of the sheriff’s office locations also feature virtual car seat training.

You can find a full list of Florida fitting stations by county on the Florida Occupant Protection Resource Center website.

What to Do After a Florida Accident Involving a Child

If your child is seriously hurt in a traffic accident caused by a careless driver, it’s important to know your rights and the rights protecting your child. Car insurance companies can downplay children’s injuries and try to offer less than they’ll need to make a full physical and emotional recovery.

Contact Cowen Edwards Trial Lawyers for a free case consultation if your child has been injured in an accident. It’s a chance to find out what your child may need in the years to come to overcome a serious injury. It’s also an opportunity to learn about the benefits available to your family that an insurance adjuster probably won’t mention. We want to compassionately represent children and their parents when an accident happens. We strive to maximize the support children receive at such a difficult time.