Safety advocates have long recommended that children stay in specialized car seats for as long as possible. Finally, Florida law may be taking a step in that direction. The Legislature this week sent Gov. Rick Scott a bill that would require drivers to transport children in either a car seat or booster seat through age 5. The governor should sign the legislation into law and ensure that Florida's children are better protected.
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among children and youth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children remain in some sort of car restraint system at least until age 7. Several states have laws that go beyond that recommendation.
Yet Florida is one of only two states without extended protection requirements for children. State law only requires children to be restrained in car seats from infancy until age 3, but 4- and 5-year-olds can use standard seat belts. Under the legislation, HB 225, passed this week, children would be required to travel in traditional car or booster seats through age 5. The bill provides exceptions during the case of emergencies, for medical conditions that necessitate freedom from car seats or if a motorist unrelated to a child is providing a ride as a favor.
It has taken 14 years of lobbying in Florida, but the state's child safety seat regulations are finally poised to catch up with common sense. Car seats save lives.