Tips on Car Seat Safety and Laws from Searcy Denney Florida Car Accident Lawyer
Woman: It’s time to Take Five. Now you know.
Candi: Most Florida drivers know that an infant or toddler must travel in a safety car seat. But do you know the safety guidelines for children of all ages? Here to explain what you need to know in order to obey the laws and keep your kids safe is attorney Ed Ricci of the law firm of Searcy Denny. Welcome, Ed.
Ed: Thanks for having me, Candi.
Candi: Are child restraints required by Florida law?
Ed: Florida law requires that children under the age of five be restrained in child safety restraint in the backseat of the car.
Candi: Why do children need to be in a special restraint?
Ed: If a parent attempts to restrain a child in an adult safety belt does not engage properly with the child’s body and can actually cause injury. For example, we’ve seen [car accident] cases where children are placed in the front seat where they’ve got a child’s…or they’ve got an adult restraint on and it can cause a spinal cord injury. And we’ve seen cases where children have been paralyzed by interaction of the airbag and the safety belt.
Candi: So, what ages do children need to be restrained in safety seats?
Ed: Well, there are three types of seats. For infants and toddlers, they need to be placed in rear-facing seats in the backseat of the vehicle, they will grow out of them usually around age two. Beyond that, children need to be restrained in a five-point restraint and a forward-facing seat. And when a child outgrows that based on the manufacturer or the safety seats’ guidelines, then they would graduate up to a belt-positioning booster seat. Now, the belt-positioning booster seat uses the adult safety belt but what it does is it places the child in a proper position so that the shoulder harness goes properly over the shoulder. And that the lower portion, the lap belt will ride on the hip bones and not engage with the stomach area where it can cause injury to the lower spinal cord as well as to internal organs. So, it’s important that the belt be snug against the hip bones.
Candi: Do you have any advice for parents to keep their children safe?
Ed: Three things to keep in mind. Number one is that it’s best to use a new seat that you purchase from a reputable store. If you’re not able to do that, and you’re going to use a hand-me-down seat, it’s important that you know the history of the seat because if it’s been in an accident, or if it’s too old, the parts could be compromised and it may not be safe. Number two, you need to look up the seat on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website to make sure the seat has not been recalled. And last, if you’re going to be riding in a taxi, an Uber, or Lyft, you need to bring your own seat. Drivers of those vehicles are not required to provide safety seats.
Candi: Should parents use a seat belt to anchor a child restraint?
Ed: For cars manufactured after 2002 in September, the best system to use is what’s called the LATCH system. And that stands for lower anchors and tether system. All cars are required to have this system and parents can look and if they have a car manufactured after 2002 there should be little indicators on the rear seat where there are anchors that the safety seat clips into on the lower portion, so that’s the lower anchor. And then at the top of the seat, there is a tether that will lock in and can be strapped to typically the back of the seats, on the backside of the seat. And that is a far easier system and it’s more secure than using a safety belt to anchor the seat. But if the vehicle does not have the LATCH system, then the only way to anchor the seat would be using a safety restraint.
Candi: When is it safe for children to ride in the front passenger seat?
Ed: It’s safe for children once they’ve reached 4″9′ and at least 80 pounds. And that can be a problem because obviously there’s some adults who don’t even…who aren’t that tall or weigh that much. So, some cars have the ability to turn off the airbag. Airbags are designed for, you know, average-size adults. So, if someone is of smaller stature, their body position, if they’re sitting too close to the dashboard or their head doesn’t sit up high enough could really put them in a dangerous position where they could get impacted by the airbag and suffer a spinal cord injury. Airbags are intended to save lives but if the person is not the right size, it could actually be a problem. If you can’t turn off the airbag, then the person ought to push the seat back and push it further back so that they’re not sitting too close to the dashboard.
Candi: Where can I go to learn more about child restraints?
Candi: Thank you, Ed. This is very important information to keep our children safe. If you need legal help regarding your rights go to searcylaw.com.