By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
December 6, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Newly-filed legislation would impose stronger penalties for adults who don’t properly restrain their children in a car. The Senate bill would allow incidents where unrestrained children are killed or injured to be investigated as child abuse.
In Florida, if your child isn’t wearing a seatbelt, you face a minimum $60 fine. Even still, Corporal Patricia Johnson Shaw with the Florida Highway Patrol says unrestrained children in vehicles remains a major problem.
“You'll have a lot of it actually when they're picked up from the schools and they're just jumping in the cars and the parents are taking off,” said Shaw.
Nationwide in 2016, 723 children age 12 years and younger died in motor vehicle crashes. Of those, 35 percent weren’t restrained.
“When you see that it's a child, it takes it to heart,” said Shaw. "And knowing that that child was not properly restrained, it makes it even worse."
A new bill filed for the 2019 session would allow the Department of Children and Families to investigate adults for child abuse if a young passenger is injured or killed because they weren’t properly restrained.
A recent study found that in a single year, more than 600,000 children in the U.S. rode in a car at least once without a seatbelt or car seat.
Corporal Shaw says kids are much more likely to ride unrestrained if their parents don’t set a good example.
“The example that you set as a parent, that's the example the kids see,” said Shaw. "If a kid doesn't see you strapped up, it's more likely that they wont strap up.”
Currently in Florida, children five and under are required to be restrained with a seatbelt or booster seat.
A House companion bill has not been filed yet, but is expected to come soon.