Fourth time’s the charm? Senate passes bill to require 6-year-olds to use booster seats

Sen. Keith Perry has been trying since 2018 to get the measure passed.

The Senate passed legislation Thursday that would require children to use booster seats until they turn 7.

Florida law currently requires 4- and 5-year olds to sit in booster seats in vehicles. But senators unanimously approved the bill (SB 380) adding 6-year-olds to that requirement.

Lawmakers, including repeated bill sponsor Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, have been trying for years to pass that requirement. However, efforts have never made it out of the committee process in either the House or the Senate.

The requirement that children 3 and younger use carseats would go unchanged.

Children in booster seats are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash than children using a vehicle’s seat alone, Perry told senators earlier in the year. Moreover, booster seats cost about $15, and several organizations donate booster seats to parents in need.

The car or booster seats must be crash-tested and federally approved.

Despite struggling through the busy committee process in past years, the bill has bipartisan support.

The majority of states have adopted U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines that children below a certain age, weight and height use booster seats. Standard seat belts could endanger children not using a booster.

While the booster seat requirement is based on the age of a child, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says parents should keep their kid’s height top-of-mind.

NTSA recommends waiting until a child is 57 inches tall — the average height of an 8-year-old — before making the switch.

The Florida Parent Teacher’s Association are among the bill’s supporters.

Perry’s proposal wouldn’t change an exemption allowing children to stay strapped in with just a safety belt if they’re being driven by a non-family member, have a specified medical condition, or are in an emergency situation.

House members have not yet scheduled the House version (HB 297), which Gainesville Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson filed earlier this month, for a committee hearing.

If signed into law, the proposal would take effect July 1.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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