Florida has the loosest child booster seat laws in the country. A more than decade-long battle to change them and raise the age requirements could be coming to an end soon.
Jo Davis buckles her 4-year-old niece Rae-lynn into a booster seat after a day at the park. Florida law only requires a booster seat for kids 3 and under. Davis says that’s not enough.
“A child who’s 5 or 8 needs more constraint. They’re smaller,” said Davis.
A bill that would boost the age requirement from 3 years and younger to 5 years and younger passed its final committee Thursday.
Supporters of the bill say that the seat belt is fine for adults. But when younger children get in the car, the seat belt goes across their neck and not their chest, and that could cause injury.
The Centers for Disease Control says a booster seat can cut the risk of serious injury for 4 to 8-year-olds nearly in half compared to a seat belt. Children’s advocate Mary-Lynn Cullen has been fighting for stricter legislation for years.
“What we’re going to do with this bill when it does pass is save lives and horrible injuries for children next year,” said Cullen.
Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring, Florida was the only member to vote no.
“I just feel like as a parent I can make the decision about whether my child can ride in the car seat or not,” said Grimsley.
Senate Sponsor Anitere Flores understands the argument. But keeping kids safe is her bottom line.
“It’s taken some time because I think there’s folks that are fearful of further government intrusion into their lives but when we’re talking about the safety of our children nothing could be more important,” said Flores.
The House unanimously passed similar legislation Wednesday. It’s an indication the Senate won’t have a rough ride on the floor with its bill.