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Times of the Islands Magazine

Keep Kids Safe in the Car: Proper Car Seats are Imperative

Sep 08, 2022 02:11PM ● By Ann Marie O'Phelan

Whether you’re taking a short trip to the market or a long trip up north, it’s essential to make sure your little ones are safe and secure in your vehicle. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) states, “Children should always be buckled up or in a proper child restraint.”  

The law further spells out that all front-seat passengers and children under 18 riding in a vehicle must use a car seat or child-restraint device. Because of possible airbag deployment, children should be in the rear seats until age 12. Florida law requires children ages 5 and under to be secured properly in a crash-tested, federally approved child-restraint device. Florida law also states that children through age 3 must be in child-restraint devices of a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child seat. Children ages 4-5 must be in a separate carrier, integrated child seat, or booster seat. 

The best child seat fits your child and fits your car. Follow the car seat’s instruction manual and your vehicle’s owner manual when installing. 

Not only is it safer for children, it’s the law. “Florida’s safety belt law is a primary enforcement law, meaning that an officer can stop a vehicle and issue a citation simply for observing a safety belt or restraint violation,” states the FLHSMV.  

It’s also important to ensure that it is used properly. “More than half of car seats are not used correctly. When a car seat is used correctly, it can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent,” says Cass Herring, child passenger safety certification technical advisor for Safe Kids Worldwide. 

A car-seat check with a certified child passenger safety technician provides technical assistance and education that empowers caregivers with the knowledge and reassurance of safely transporting their children. “Car-seat checks are a great way to learn new information, help with difficult installations, and provide support for caregivers as they make decisions to transition their child into the next type of car seat,” explains Herring. The ultimate goal of car-seat checks is to teach caregivers to check the installation and use of the seat themselves. When they get a new seat or have questions, a car-seat check is always a great option. Safe Kids Southwest Florida offers free car-seat checks in locations throughout the area. 

 

Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and regular contributor to TOTI Media. 

 

For more information on seat belts and child restraints, refer to the official Florida Driver License Handbook (flhsmv.gov/pdf/handbooks/englishdriverhandbook.pdf). Always check for car-seat and booster-seat recalls at flhsmv.gov/safety-center/vehicle-safety/recalls/. 

 

CAR-SEAT INSPECTIONS

A car-seat check is designed to assess all aspects of how the child is transported: 

1. Selection. Is this the correct seat for the child’s needs (height, weight, age, developmental level), and does it fit the vehicle and the family’s needs? During this step technicians also check the labels, expiration dates, and look for recalls on the seat. 

2. Direction. Is the seat facing the correct direction in the vehicle? The recommendation is to secure children in rear-facing car seats as long as possible until they meet height or weight limits. 

3. Location. Where is the seat installed or secured in the vehicle? Rear-seat installation is best, but airbags, other car seats, or other passengers are all considerations when determining location in a vehicle. 

4. Harness adjustment. Does the harness fit the child appropriately according to the car-seat manufacturer instructions? A booster seat is also checked to ensure it is adjusted to fit the child. 

5. Installation. Is the seat secured to the vehicle correctly? Parents are shown how to install the seat during this step. For a booster seat, is the seat belt routed correctly to fit the child according to the manufacturer’s recommendations? 

 

SAFE KIDS SOUTHWEST FLORIDA INSPECTION STATIONS  

Lee County 

North Fort Myers Fire Department

2900 Trail Dairy Circle, North Fort Myers 

Appointment required. 

Contact: Christi Kulwicki, [email protected] 

239-997-8654  

 

Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida

9981 S. HealthPark Drive, Fort Myers 

Appointment required. 

Contact: Sally Kreuscher, [email protected] 

239-343-6199  

 

Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida

1441 Heritage Boulevard, Immokalee 

Third Tuesday of the month, 9am - 4pm 

Appointment required. 

Contact: Brenda Hernandez, [email protected] 

239-565-8371  

 

Lee Health Coconut Point

23450 Via Coconut Point, Estero 

Monday-Friday 9am - 4pm 

Appointment required. 

Contact: Jamie Hoover, [email protected] 

239-468-0050  

 

Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District

5700 Pine Island Road, Bokeelia 

Monday-Saturday, 8:30am - 5pm 

Appointment required. 

Contact: Linda Richter, a[email protected] 

239-283-0030  

 

Collier County 

Collier County Sheriff’s Office

3301 U.S. 41 E, Building J, Naples 

Appointment required. 

Marianna Herrera, [email protected] 

239-252-0367  

 

Florida Department of Health, Collier County

3339 Tamiami Trail E, Building H, Naples 

Appointment required. 

Contact: Brenda Hernandez, [email protected] 

239-565-8371  

 

Golisano Children’s Health Center

3361 Pine Ridge Road, Suite 106, Naples 

Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm 

Appointment required. 

Contact: Brenda Hernandez, [email protected] 

239-565-8371  

 

Twinkle Twinkle Little Store

4172 Tamiami Trail N, Naples 

Monday-Sunday, 9am-6pm 

Appointment required. 

239-262-5904 

 

Charlotte County 

Florida Department of Health, Charlotte County

1100 Loveland Blvd., Port Charlotte 

Appointment required. 

Contact: Heather Boyd, [email protected] 

941-624-7273