Until this week, Florida was one of only two states in the nation that didn't have a law requiring car seats for kids who'd outgrown baby seats but were still too small for seat belts. But a law -- pushed by advocates for more than a decade -- signed by Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday changed that, essentially mandating booster seats for children ages three to six.
Florida had required car seats only through age three, making it "dead last" in child safety seat laws, said Karen Morgan, public policy manager for AAA The Auto Club Group, based in Tampa.
Now only South Dakota doesn't have a booster seat law.
The new Florida law requires children to remain in some type of "child restraint device" until their sixth birthday. Depending on the child's size, that can be a booster seat, which helps seat belts fit properly, or a bigger car seat with a five-point harness, Morgan said.
"Florida is still in the middle to the back of the pack compared to other states," she added, but the new law is an improvement.
"We're very pleased with the Governor and the Legislature for taking it on this year, getting it done," she said.
Scott said that as a father and grandfather he understands the importance of the issue.
"With this initiative, we are working to ensure our children travel safely and remain protected on the road. We will continue to do
all we can to keep every Floridian safe, so they can enjoy everything our great state has to offer with their loved ones,” he said in a statement.
Advocates for child-safety seats in cars have been pushing for such a law for 14 years, citing research that says car seats save lives.
Riding while improperly restrained is one of the reasons traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for American children ages 5 to 14, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Other states have stricter laws than even Florida's new one. Georgia, for example, requires kids up to age 8 to be in some kind of safety seat, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
The Florida Legislature passed such a law in 2001 but it was vetoed by then Gov. Jeb Bush.
AAA and other safety advocates lobbied for a similar law this year, noting that safety experts recommend booster seats until a child is 8 or 4-foot-9.
But they faced push back. The bill that passed (HB 225) requires safety seats through age five.
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