Florida Revamps Child Safety Restraint Law

There is very little that will cause as much heartache to a parent as seeing his or her child hurt. When a child sustains an injury as the result of a traffic accident that occurs while the parent is driving, the guilt can be overwhelming. Even if the parent is not at fault in the accident, second-guessing whether or not there was something that he or she could have done to have avoided injury to the child or children can be distressing.

Regrettably, one estimate states that there are roughly 650 children killed every year in car accidents and almost 150,000 others who sustain injuries. Other research indicates that fatalities among children due to motor vehicle accidents is more than twice that amount at 1,500, with injuries as high as 175,000 annually. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, by late December, 2014, five children had been killed and 145 had suffered injuries on Florida highways. These startling statistics have caused tremendous concern among several national organizations which have put into place various initiatives to promote child restraint systems. The suggestions of these various agencies may vary, but the goal is the same – to reduce injuries and deaths among children involved in car accidents.

The Florida locations of one national agency are providing parents with free booster seats. These seats are available for children between the ages of four to eight years old who weigh 30 lbs to 110 lbs and who range in height from 3 ft., 4 ins. to 4 ft., 9 ins. tall. The program is intended to help the parents of children who meet these requirements. Although you need not be a member of the agency to benefit from the program, the quantity of booster seats available is limited. Consequently, these booster seats are provided to parents as they are requested while they are still available. Contact your local law enforcement to find out which agencies offer such programs.

The purpose of this program is to help parents meet the new safety requirements that were implemented as the result of a recent change to Florida’s child restraint law. Previously, Florida law stated that children age three and under must be in a child safety seat, yet it permitted children who were four- and five-years-old to be restrained solely by a seatbelt. Effective January 1, 2015, however, children who are age five or under are required to be in either a child safety seat (car seat) or a booster seat.

Which of these two safety devices should be used is dependent upon the height and weight of the child. Once the child exceeds the manufacturer’s size recommendation for a car seat, he or she then is required to use a booster seat. There are a few circumstances which allow for exemption of this requirement. A four- or five-year-old can use only a seatbelt when the driver is not a close family member, if there exists a documented medical reason that the child cannot be in a booster seat, or if there is an emergency, but there is no booster seat available for the child.

One national agency that monitors and promotes child safety restraints is the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC).

According to the CDC, the use of a booster seat can minimize the risk of injury to children ages four through eight by as much as 45 percent. Consequently, the CDC makes the following suggestions as to when and how to use car seats and booster seats, as proposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

    • Rear-facing car seats are designed for children age 2 years or younger or until they exceed the height/weight limitations for the car seat.


    • Front-facing car seats are intended for children 2 through at least 5 years of age. Again, the CDC suggests that the child remain in a front-facing car seat until they reach the height/weight limit of the car seat, as advised by the manufacturer of the car seat.


  • Booster seats are only endorsed for children age 5 or greater who have surpassed the height/weight limit advised for the forward-facing car seat, but who have not yet reached the height of 57″ which is the height for seatbelt use alone.

(Although these standards are advocated by the CDC, laws governing child safety restraints vary from state to state.)

Even among those parents who use car seats and booster seats for their children, there are still many injuries to children that occur through improper use of these safety devices. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that four out of five car seats or booster seats are installed improperly. This, in conjunction with not using a height/weight appropriate child restraint, could be a contributing factor to car accidents being the number one cause of death among children between the ages of 2 to 14.

In addition to the weight, height, and age standards for having a child in a car restraint, remember that to be in a just a seatbelt, the child should be able to sit all the way back in the seat while having his or her legs bend at the knee over the edge of the seat. Also, the lap belt should lay across the child’s lap, not stomach, and the shoulder strap should cross the child’s chest, not throat.

“Safety belts save lives, but only when used and used correctly,” said Terry Rhodes, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. “Booster seats help elevate children to the height at which the safety belt will properly secure them.”

Once a child is big enough to use just a seatbelt, remember to always put children 12 and under in the back seat where they are not sitting in front of an airbag. It is also important to keep in mind that if you only have one child, buckling him or her in the middle of the back seat is the safest position for them should you have a car crash.

The same is true for making sure your child has not outgrown the car seat. If you are buying bigger clothes for your child or notice other indicators that the child is growing, then it is a safe bet that you may need to monitor the ‘fit’ of the car restraint. Failing to have your child properly secured in a motor vehicle can result in a $60 fine, court costs, and three points being assessed against your driver’s license. Although the fine and court cost may seem manageable, this can get to be quite costly when you factor in the cost those points will add to your car insurance rates.


Responsible Walking and Bicycling

It seems like I hear about pedestrian and bicyclist deaths due to cars or trucks almost every time I read the news, and it seems the driver of the vehicle often leaves the scene. Just last week alone, the Sun-Sentinel published articles on a pedestrian and a bicyclist who died as a result of hit-and-run accidents. On Wednesday, March 4th, a 57-year-old man was crossing a road in Dania Beach when he was struck by a pickup truck. The victim was pronounced dead upon arrival at Memorial Regional Hospital.

After the collision, the truck then fled the scene without supplying any aid to the victim. The roommate of the victim described the vehicle to the Broward County Sherriff’s deputies who responded to the scene and pieces of the perpetrator’s vehicle were found at the scene. The combination of this information led to an investigation that ultimately resulted in them speaking with a person of interest.

The bicyclist who was hit was a 46-year-old male who was riding his bike at approximately 2:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. The person responsible was eventually found and arrested, charged with tampering with evidence and failure to remain at an accident involving a death.

Regarding the pedestrian death, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office stated, “We have seen many hit and runs recently and many of them fatal. Often times it’s the pedestrian’s fault and panicked drivers tend to flee and end up facing charges they wouldn’t have faced if they had stayed on scene.”

Although the first victim was not in a crosswalk at the time that he was struck, and both incidents occurred after dark, these are hardly actions that should be punishable by death. Additionally, it is horrifying enough to strike someone with a vehicle, but to do so and drive off is absolutely heinous. You cannot possibly strike someone with your vehicle and not be aware of it. Not only is it a heinous act, but it is also a felony and an act of stupidity. Both of the vehicles involved in these incidents left behind broken bits of the vehicles involved. Additionally, with the density of the population in South Florida, it is virtually impossible to commit such a violation without witnesses. I am sure it is just a matter of time before the first driver is also identified.

Why these types of incidents continue to occur in what seems to be with ever-increasing frequency is of some debate. According to a study conducted by the State of Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Florida’s pedestrian fatality rates have consistently placed among the highest in the nation. It is possible that one reason for this startling statistic is that it is a matter of continual urbanization, yet relatively little investment in addressing safety concerns. Add to that the number of major highways that are in use in South Florida which pedestrians and bicyclists have to share with motor vehicles and it becomes clear that all of these issues could be determinant factors.

There is, however, a dissenting opinion that raises concerns which addresses the issue of how the fatality statistics are gauged. For example, because there are so many visitors to this state and the climate encourages people to be outdoors, there is greater exposure of bicyclists and pedestrians to traffic.

Another hypothesis is that the length of nights tend to be longer in the south. Walking in the dark is inherently more dangerous and occurs more frequently in Florida due to its relatively warm winters as compared to other areas of the country. The variables of climate and length of day are considered to be the two key components for nearly 60 percent of the variation between Florida’s metropolitan fatalities as compared to other areas. Let’s also remember that the sheer volume of traffic in Florida motivates drivers to seek alternate routes, often leading them to roadways where there is unrestricted pedestrian traffic.

Some of the findings of this traffic study which was conducted from 1998-2000 were quite surprising. There were 353 accidents that involved pedestrians and 61 that involved bicyclists during that timeframe. Of the 353 pedestrian events, 350 resulted in the death of the pedestrians. Sadly, most of these deaths (80 percent) were the result of pedestrian errors. Fifty-three percent were caused by pedestrians trying to cross the road at areas that did not contain crosswalks. Generally when this occurred, 69 percent of those people were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The likely correlation is that drivers learn to look for people in crosswalks, but seldom do drivers anticipate people walking out from between cars and so forth.

As for driver responsibility, the study showed that 71 percent of the time, poor lighting was a major issue. This confirms the earlier statement that the lack of financial investment into greater safety measures by the State of Florida is a huge part of the problem. Better and greater use of streetlights, crosswalks with pedestrian signals, etcetera could markedly reduce these types of tragedies. These methods, however, only work when pedestrians and bicyclists heed them.

It has been my perception that with the growing use of bicycles as a means of transportation, bicyclists tend to forget that they are not afforded the same safety as if they were in a car, yet they often ride as though they are in a car. Florida General Statute 316.2065 states that

(1) Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle…

Although the same laws apply to both vehicles and bicycles, I have seen many bicyclists use their added maneuverability to engage in illegal and dangerous behaviors. Also, although recumbent bikes are very popular, many times it is extremely difficult to see them in traffic and their width makes them harder to avoid than a standard bicycle.


Some Important Tips for Driving Regulations

It goes without saying that if you drive a vehicle you must hold the appropriate G/G2 license and you must also be fully conversant with driving regulations. You would do well to refer to the Highway Traffic Act and be familiar with the rules. If you are new to this state you would need to go through the graduated licensing program, a two-step process that takes about 20 months for you to obtain the G driving license for cars.

Some of the basic regulations drivers must be familiar with are given below.

You will need to obtain a driving license once you take up residence in the region and wish to drive a car. You will go through the two-step process and you will have to pass the driving test before a license is issued to you. If you are from a region with which has an exchange agreement then your existing license may be valid provided you pass the vision test and you can prove your competence. Such drivers need to present themselves at the Drivers Examination Centre and show their existing driving license or obtain a written confirmation about their driving experience from the appropriate licensing authorities.

Whether you drive your own vehicle or another car the vehicles need to be fully licensed, insured and they must also be well maintained. The vehicle must be registered and drivers need to buy a vehicle permit and license plates as well as pay the annual vehicle validation fee, renewed each year from the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Issuing Office. If you bring in your own vehicle from another province or State you must register it within 30 days. If you are buying a used car please check its history for ownership, the record of accidents and mileage traveled.

All vehicles must be fully insured with a suitable third party liability insurance cover worth at least $200,000. Vehicle registration mandates a valid insurance policy.

When you drive you must have the pink liability insurance card with you at all times and you must produce it if the police ask for it. Failure can lead to a fine of $40.

Recent changes to regulations include stiffer penalties if you are found to be using your phone while driving. Pedestrians get precedence at the pedestrian crossover and at the school crossing. You must wait the pedestrians have reached the other side of the road safely before you start your vehicle or you could become liable to a fine of $ 150 to $ 500 and three demerit points. The fine could be double if you infringe the regulations in Community Safety Zones.

The rule applies to pedestrian crossover but not to the pedestrian crosswalk where previous regulations apply. If traffic signals and stop signs are present then also the regulations may not apply. The new regulations apply at school crossing provided a crossing guard is present.

You start with a G1 test and then after suitable practice applies for G2 driving test that gives you full class G driving privileges for which you have to sign a declaration of highway driving experience to show you have driven on designated highways at a speed limit of at least 80km/hr.


Choosing The Right LED Or Reflective Film Enabled Traffic Signs

We must all have seen many traffic signs on the roads when we commute to work every day. These signs include directions, warnings, alerts, caution about danger zones and just about every other information that will let you know if you can travel in that route or not. When you want to buy traffic signs for your property or commercial/residential establishment, you have to watch out for a lot of things. The first one would be visibility. What purpose would it fulfil if you install a traffic sign that cannot be read by all? Next, you need to decide on the materials that will make your sign look brighter. LED bulbs, with their great energy saving capacity and high efficiency, are one of the first choices of owners these days. You could also print your traffic signs on huge reflective films and get them stuck on hoardings in key areas. Here are a few points that you need to keep in mind when you choose these traffic signs.

Reflective films

When you are looking for a perfect traffic sign printing solution, you need to be clear on the answers to the following concepts:

a. How do you plan to use your traffic signs and would you like to specialise in a core traffic-regulated market? Are you looking to print only traffic signs or other things as well?

b. What should would you like your sign to be printed on? Do you want a mix of printing that will enable printing on sheets and rolls or do you want only one of those?

c. What kind of reflective film would you need to print your sign on? How much of ink adhesion are you looking at?

LED Signs

LED Traffic Signs are quite powerful and are very durable as well. These signs have great visibility and can be used to denote various alerts for road users. If you are looking for a LED-powered traffic signboard, you need to be aware of the following concepts:

a. How many LEDs are required in a sign? You should know that when you use more LEDs, the number of pixels in your sign goes up and increases the visibility of your sign from a long distance. When you choose lesser number of LEDs for your signs, they become weak and non-comprehendible.

b. From how far would the signs be viewed by the road users? This is an important point to remember because, if your signs are located close to the traffic, they will be viewed from a very close distance. Hence, you don’t have to invest in lots of pixels to make your sign huge and bright.

How much should be the ideal budget for this? LED bulbs consume very little energy and have a long life. This makes them costlier than the other fluorescent bulbs. Therefore, it is highly recommended to spend judiciously and invest on these signs only after clearly assessing the viewing angles, so that you don’t waste money on a sign that could have been in a smaller and cheaper way.