Parents of 4- and 5-year-old children, take note: As of Jan. 1, 2015, you are in violation of the law if your child is in a moving motor vehicle without being strapped to a child car seat or booster seat.
A new child car seat law took effect at the start of the year, with the aim of reducing the number of child injuries and fatalities attributed to car accidents.
The Florida Highway Patrol reported according to preliminary figures, five children died and another 145 were injured in wrecks due to improper or no child safety restraints last year.
Before the new measure went into effect, children ages 4 and 5 were allowed to ride in a vehicle with just a seat belt. The problem, according to safety advocates and legislators, is that most of these younger children could not fit properly into seat belts intended for older children, adolescents and adults. By putting them in a booster seat, officials say, children are elevated to a height at which a seat belt will be able to properly secure them.
Fort Lauderdale accident attorneys understand the law builds on the older law, which requires children 3 and younger to ride in car seats.
Violators of the updated law will face a $60 fine plus court costs and the up to three points assessed on their driver’s licenses. Some have argued it isn’t enough. There is the potential for such actions to be construed as a form of neglect, which could factor into investigations with the Florida Department of Children and Families or in family courts where there may be ongoing custody disputes.
But of course the bigger reason to follow the law is that it has the potential to save young lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which children between the ages of 4 and 8 use a booster seat, their risk of severe injury in a crash is slashed by 45 percent.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in its most recent annual Traffic Safety Facts report on children, indicated in 2012, there were 33,500 traffic fatalities in the U.S. and of those, children under 14 accounted for 3 percent, or 1,168 (a 3 percent increase from the year before). There were also nearly 170,000 children injured that year in car accidents, which is the No. 1 cause of death for 4-year-olds and children between the ages of 11 and 14.
Statistics show injuries and fatalities among children in crashes has trended significantly downward in recent years, with many researchers attributing this slide to improvements in child safety features, including restraints.
In order to help Florida parents and caregivers comply with the law, AAA has initiated an effort to give away free booster seats to those who apply.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
New child booster-seat law goes into effect Jan. 1, Dec. 24, 2014, By Tonya Alanez, Sun Sentinel
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