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Car Seats vs. Booster Seats


You may not realize, most people do not, that car crashes are the biggest threat to children. For children aged 1 to 12, car crashes is the number one killer in the United States. It is this great risk that necessitates the laws regarding the usage of car seats and booster seats. Whether you are expecting, a first-time parent or have a couple of children already, it is necessary to understand the difference between car seats and booster seats as well as understand when and why you need to have and use them.


What is a Car Seat

Red Baby Car SeatThere are two main types of car seats: rear facing and forward facing. It is generally recommended that children be placed in a rear-facing car seat until the age of 2. Child seat manufacturers rate their rear-facing seats by height and weight, so if your child reaches these limits before the age of 2, they should be moved to a forward-facing car seat. Hybrid car seats, those that work as both rear-facing and forward-facing, are popular and generally a good money saver for those with toddlers. When it comes to car seats vs. booster seats, for infants and early toddlers the answer is a car seat.


What is a Booster Seat

A booster seat is exactly as it sounds. It boosts your child up so the he or she can use a seatbelt. Seatbelts only work for those of a certain height; in fact, they can actually be dangerous if you are below the recommended height the belts do not cross the body in correct positions. A booster seat fits snuggly under your child, boosting him or her up so the seatbelt can lie across the upper thighs and tightly across the shoulders and chest. A seatbelt that crosses the neck or stomach is incorrect and dangerous!


When to Switch From a Car Seat to a Booster Seat

There are several rules or guidelines as to when is the proper time to switch your child from a car seat to a booster seat. The general consensus is that you should move your child from a car seat to a booster seat at 4 years of age and at least 40 pounds. Though these are the most mentioned guidelines, torso height must also be considered. The upgrade to a booster seat should occur when your child’s shoulders are higher than the top set of harness-strap slots in the car seat. Your child should remain in a booster seat while in the weight range of 40 to 80 pounds and while under the height of 4 feet and 9 inches.


Florida Regulations Concerning Car Seats and Booster Seats

As with most other states, Florida has regulations regarding car seats and booster seats for children. Current Florida law states that all children under the age of 3 must have a separate child restraint seat at all times in a moving vehicle. A child restraint seat means either a car seat or a booster seat. The law also stipulates that children aged 4 to 5 years must have a separate, integrated child restraint such as a car seat or seat belt with a booster seat. The penalties for violating this law include up to a $600 fine as well as 3 points on your driver’s license.


Car Seats and Discount Car Insurance

There are 2 areas where your car insurance may be impacted by car seats or general child restraints. First, non-compliance with the law, as already mentioned, can result in 3 points added to your driving record. Of course, this will lead to increased car insurance premiums until those points expire. Also, while it is not a common discount or incentive, occasionally, auto insurance companies will offer incentives where they pay for a portion of your car seat purchase. You will not want to choose your auto insurance company based upon this sort of incentive, but it is a good idea to contact your auto insurer to see what they do offer to reduce the cost of a child safety seat.


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