Florida law requires that children traveling in motor vehicles be properly restrained with an appropriate child safety device. The specific requirements vary depending on the child’s age and are based upon industry and government safety guidelines. Remember, the purpose of these laws is to ensure your child’s safety and you should view them as a minimum standard.
Children Under Four Years Old
Children under the age of four must be restrained in a child safety seat in the vehicle’s rear seat. This may be a separate carrier or a child safety seat built into a vehicle by the manufacturer.
Infants should always use a rear-facing seat, as this is the safest possible method of transporting young children. Safety experts recommend continuing to use this seat as long as the child is within the height and weight limits of the seat.
When the child does outgrow the rear-facing seat (normally reaching at least one year of age and a minimum of 20 pounds of weight), you should switch to a forward-facing child safety seat. This seat should also be installed in the vehicle’s rear seat.
Children Ages Four and Five
By law, children ages four and five may continue to use a child safety seat, at the parent’s discretion. Alternatively, the child may use the vehicle’s safety belt. The child must remain in the rear seat.
That said, safety experts recommend that children should continue to use the forward-facing seat until they exceed the weight or height limit of the seat. This is normally around age four and a weight of 40 pounds.
Safety experts also recommend that children use a booster seat at this age. Otherwise, the seat belt may not fit properly and the child is at significant risk of harm in the event of an accident.
Children Ages Six through Eight
Children aged six though eight must remain in the rear seat of the vehicle and use a seat belt at all times.
Although the law does not require the use of a booster seat, safety experts recommend that you continue to use a booster seat for your child until the child is at least four feet, nine inches (4’9”) tall.
Children Ages Nine through Twelve
Children ages nine through twelve must remain in the rear seat of the vehicle and use a seat belt at all times. Children of this age no longer require the use of a booster seat and can safely use the adult seat belt.
Children Thirteen and Above
Children ages thirteen and over may ride in either the front or back seat. As with adults, children in the front seat must wear seat belts.
Child Safety Seat Checks
Florida offers a number of free child seat fitting stations. You should always visit one of these stations when considering changing your child’s seating arrangement to ensure that it is safe. Never make a car safety decision based solely upon materials you read online or offline. Always seek out an expert opinion. Visit the SaferCar website to find a station and make an appointment. For more information on child seat safety, read safety tips from Miami Children’s Hospital or TheSpruce.