Many parents do not realize the risks they are taking when they head out the door each day with their children in the car. Auto accidents are the leading cause of death and injury to children in the United States ages 1 to 12. Many of these deaths and injuries are preventable. Studies show that more than 80 percent of child restraints are not used correctly, and research indicates that nearly 50 percent of the deaths occur when children are completely unrestrained in a vehicle.
With September being National Child Passenger Safety Month, it is a great time to review the steps you can take to keep your children safe in the car.
- Make sure your child’s safety seat is installed properly. Visit http://safeseats4kids.aaa.com/ to find a child car seat inspection station nearest you. Certified technicians will inspect and install your child’s car seat free of charge.
- Ensure your child is in the appropriate safety seat for their height and weight. To confirm, parents can visit www.SaferCar.gov/TheRightSeat to check if a car seat is the right size for their child.
- Make sure the child safety seat is facing the right direction for your child’s age and size. It is advised to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible in their car seat.
- A child’s car seat that is more than six years old should be replaced. The expiration date can be found on the shell of the car seat.
- Avoid using secondhand child safety seats, especially if purchased at a yard sale or thrift store. These seats could be damaged or recalled and many parents do not realize that car seats have an expiration date.
Florida law requires that children traveling in motor vehicles be properly restrained with an appropriate child safety device. These vary depending on the child’s age, industry standards, and government safety guidelines.
- Infants & Children under the Age of 4: Must be restrained in a child safety seat in the vehicle’s back seat. This needs to be a separate carrier or a child safety seat built in to a vehicle by the manufacturer. Infants should always use a rear-facing seat. 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, switch to a forward-facing child safety seat. This seat should also be installed in the vehicle’s rear seat.
- Children Ages 4 and 5: As of January 1, 2015 children must ride in a crash-tested, federally approved car seat or booster seat until they reach the age of 6. Previously, 4- and 5-year-olds could wear a seatbelt only and a safety seat was recommended, but only at a parent’s discretion. Florida was the 49th state to pass the law, which AAA advocated for years.
- Children Ages 6 through 8: Must remain in the back seat and wear a seatbelt at all times. Although not required by law, a booster seat is recommended until the child is 4’9.
- Children Ages 9 through 12: Must remain in the back seat of the vehicle and use a seatbelt at all times. Children of this age no longer require a booster seat and can safely use the adult seatbelt.
- Children 13 and older: May ride in either the front or back seat. As with adults, children must wear their seatbelts at all times, whether they are in the front or back seat.
At the law firm of Michael T. Gibson, P.A. we understand that your children are your most precious cargo and we want to make sure they travel safely. If you have been involved in a car accident and your child suffered a catastrophic injury or fatal injury as a result, you need to contact an experienced Orlando auto accident attorney immediately. These injuries and fatalities can be the result of multiple factors, including the negligence of another driver or a manufacturer defect, such as a failed seatbelt, airbag or poorly designed car seat. At our firm, we have the resources to fight the car manufacturers for failing to provide adequate protection for children and the big insurance companies. Feel free to fill out our quick contact form on our website to discuss your legal options in more detail.