The health and safety of our children is a top priority – especially when your child is a passenger in your vehicle. In February 2014, new car seat laws were put into place to further ensure the safety of young passenger(s). If your children are under the age of three, you are most likely already aware of the new rules and guidelines regarding the usage of the LATCH device for protection in the event of a car accident. However, if your children are three or older, you may not be as familiar with the new laws.
This past February (2014), the guidelines for using the LATCH anchor system have changed. LATCH stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren”. It’s a system that secures child seats without the use of seat belts in the event of an accident. All automobiles manufactured in North America have been required to outfit their cars with this system since 2002. The idea was to make the LATCH system of anchors and tethers universal so that it made no difference what make or model your car is…it would work the same in all vehicles. The LATCH anchors are the loop shaped metal rings in the back seat of your car where the seat meets the set back.
The standard rule has been that the LATCH system had a weight limit of 40 lbs. and that if your child is over 40 lbs., the LATCH system could fail in an accident. The controversy has been about the difference in car seat weights – some seats are heavy and some are light. This made it impossible to determine the tipping point of the seat in a car accident.
New guidelines have changed the maximum weight from 40 to 65 lbs. It’s important to note that the weight limit only applies to the lower anchors and not to the tether. However, the tether should always be used on any face-forward seat. The 65 lb. limit is the combined weight of the child and the seat. If the weight goes over 65 lbs., it’s time to use the seat belt as a safer alternative and to discontinue using the LATCH anchors. Another suggestion is that when your child is old (or big) enough to use a forward facing seat, it may be time to use the seatbelt.
For refresher purposes, the following are the FLHSMV (Florida Highway Safety Motor Vehicles) general guidelines for driving with a child in your car:
Birth – 1 year old:
- Use a rear-facing child car seat in the back seat of your car
1 year old – 3 years old:
- Use a rear-facing child car seat in the back seat until they outgrow the weight and height limit of the child car seat
- When a child is over 1 year old and over 20 lbs., you can switch to a forward-facing car seat
4 years old – 7 years old:
- Use a forward facing child seat in the back seat until they reach the weight and heights limits of the child car seat
8 years old – 12 years old:
- Use a booster seat in the back seat until the child is big enough to use the car’s seat belt.
NEVER put your child’s car seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger side airbag.
Keeping your child safe and secure should be your number one priority whenever you drive with them in your vehicle. Remember that Florida law requires children:
- Under the age of 5 to be properly restrained no matter where they are seated in the vehicle
- Up to 3 years old secured in a separate carrier or child safety seat
- 4 to 5 years old secured in a separate carrier, an integrated child safety set or by a seat belt
And, please keep in mind that failure to follow any of these safety rules not only endangers the life or your child in the event of a car accident, but it could result in a $60 fine and 3 points against your driver’s license. For more information about child safety, please visit https://www.dmv.org/fl-florida/safety-laws.php.