Finding a seat in a full car just got a lot easier for children ages 5 and under, at least in Florida. According to WFLA.com, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported that close to 150 children were injured as a result of incorrect seating in 2014, an average of about a dozen injuries per month. Worse still, at least five children lost their lives in automotive accidents due to car seats being incorrectly installed, or not in use at all.
In an attempt to bring down this number, a new state law has been put into effect that requires all children five and under to sit in a booster seat in order to be correctly secured by the adult-sized seatbelts present in most vehicles. But age isn’t really the most mitigating factor when it comes to getting a child seated correctly in a motor vehicle, contrary to popular belief. In general, a child should be a minimum of 4 feet, 9 inches tall before being seated like an adult; further, the child should be a minimum of 80 pounds before you take them out of a booster seat. If both of these qualifications aren’t met, your child should still be in a booster seat; Florida’s new law aims to allow children to reach both of these prerequisites before being legally permitted to travel without a booster seat.
A few other facts about car safety with regard to small children:
- Automobile accidents and crashes are the second most common cause of death for children aged 4 to 10 years.
- As high as 70 percent of parents are unaware of the two prerequisites necessary for a child to be safely seated in a motor vehicle.
- A recent study found that 90 percent of parents graduate their children to “adult” seating prematurely.
- Roughly 10 children lost their lives every month in 2012 due to incorrect seating restraints in automobile accidents.
- A booster seat can reduce the risk of serious injury for small child by close to 50 percent.
The law is also designed for parents: News-Press.com reports that this change in ordinance is meant to help you become more aware of your child’s safety in the car. Most small children, when seated normally, end up with the shoulder belt digging into their underarm or shunted off behind them altogether, leaving them with only a lap belt for protection. This may seem like a fair compromise, but sitting without a shoulder belt can lead to serious injury even in a minor collision, particularly in small children due to lower bone density. With this in mind, a proper booster seat will allow your child to use the shoulder belt the way it’s meant to be used and without any discomfort.
Florida has been a bit behind the curve with regard to child safety in motor vehicles, but this change may come as a surprise for many parents, particularly those unaware of the requirements for safe “adult” seating. Surprise or not, it’s all to protect the children of the state; if you’re a parent of small children, keep them in a booster until they’re big enough to be seated safely, even if they pass the five year mark.