Motor vehicle accidents are the #1 cause of death for children age 2 to 14. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. In 2006, there were 427 traffic fatalities involving children under age 5. Of those 427 fatalities, 149 (35%) were totally unrestrained and 33 (7.5%) improperly used an adult seat belt instead of a child safety seat. Among children under age 5, an estimated 425 lives were saved in 2006 by child restraint use. Of these 425 lives saved, 392 were from the use of child safety seats and 32 with the proper use of adult seat belts. As you can see, properly using child restraints and seatbelts may be the most important thing you can do to protect your family.
Florida law requires children under age 5 to be properly restrained no matter where they are seated in the vehicle. Children through age 3 must be secured in a carrier (child safety seat) or in a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child safety seat. For children ages 4 to 5, a separate carrier, an integrated child safety seat, or a seat belt may be used. If a safety belt does not fit the child correctly, a booster seat should be used to correctly position the lab and shoulder belts once they outgrow forward facing child safety seats. Infants must ride rear-facing until they are at least one year old and weigh 20 pounds or more. Rear-facing, the infant should be semi-upright at an angle no more than 45 degrees. A forward-facing older child should ride sitting upright. Violation of the child restraint law carries a fine and 3 points assessed against his or her driver’s license. Although not required by Florida law, the NHTSA recommends that children in rear-facing child seats should not be placed in the front seat of vehicles with passenger air bags, because the impact of a deploying air bag could seriously injure the child.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has established a website for child passenger safety. If you need to make sure your child’s safety seat is properly installed, or if you are in need of a low cost car seat or booster seat, visit www.fhp.state.fl.us/cps/ for more information. Additionally, most local law enforcement agencies, including the Florida Highway Patrol, offer free installation and inspection of child safety seats.
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