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Florida Senate Passes Child Booster Seat Bill

A bill passed by the Florida Senate would require children ages 4 to 7 who are less than 4 feet 9 inches tall to be secured in a booster seat while traveling in a car. Before being signed into law, the bill must be passed by the Florida House of Representatives, but not if opponents of the bill have their way.

Under current state law, a parent must secure a child that is 3 years old or younger in a car seat. Once the child reaches the age of 4, the child can move directly from the car seat to a regular seat belt. Florida is one of just two states to allow a child to travel in a vehicle using only a regular seat belt at the age of 4. Opponents of the bill argue that the law burdens Florida families with an unnecessary cost, especially at a time when the economy has soured.

A similar bill was presented to former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001. Gov. Bush vetoed the bill, giving as his reasons the cost imposed on families and the trouble with enforcement. For example, in regard to the height requirement, police officers would literally have to measure the child in some circumstances.

Proponents of the bill point out the safety benefits of using a booster seat. One statistic indicates that children properly using a booster seat are 59 percent less likely to be injured if the vehicle is involved in a car accident. They also argue that the cost of a booster seat, which can be as low as $40 or $50, is greatly outweighed by the cost of medical treatment and physical suffering if the child is injured in an accident.

If the bill is passed, a driver found with a child between the ages of 4 and 7 or under the height of 4 feet 9 inches who is not secured in a booster seat will be fined $60. If it turns out that the driver is a first-time offender of the law, the violation can be dismissed if the defendant proves that he or she has since purchased a booster seat.

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