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Florida law is very specific about how passengers in Florida should be belted. All front seat occupants must be buckled up, regardless of age. Children ages 6-15 must be belted in either the front or back seat of the vehicle. The driver is responsible for passengers under 16 years who are not buckled up. Passengers 16 years of age or older may be individually fined if they are not buckled up.
All children under six years must be properly restrained while riding in any car, pickup truck, or van on Florida's roads, no matter where they are sitting in the vehicle. Children through age three must be secured in a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer's integrated child safety seat. For children aged four through five years, a separate carrier, or integrated child safety seat, or a safety belt may be used.
The cost to a violator for not wearing a safety belt in Florida is $30 plus any other legal assessments up to an additional $30. The cost to a violator for not following child safety belt laws is $60, plus any other legal assessments up to an additional $30, and three points.
The fact is that all Floridians pay the price for those who do not wear safety belts, through higher health care and insurance costs. The costs of hospital care for an unbuckled driver are 50 percent higher than those for a driver wearing a safety belt. Florida citizens - not the individual - bear 85 percent of those costs. And these costs are further increased in Florida with the added drivers on Florida roads due to tourism. Businesses are paying the price as well. On-the-job crashes cost employers $22,000 per crash and $110,000 per injury due to lost productivity and higher insurance and medical costs.
Research shows that when a driver is unbuckled, 70 percent of the time children in that vehicle will not be buckled either. A child unrestrained in a 30-mile-per-hour crash is equivalent to a child falling from a three-story building. Personal choice is forfeited when others are injured and killed.
Besides saving lives, reducing injury and death, and saving taxpayers money, safety belt enforcement often leads to the apprehension of felons. Florida's statewide enforcement wave in May 1999, resulted in the apprehension of 263 fugitives, 376 other felony arrests, and 982 DUI arrests.
Even with Florida's current secondary safety belt law, safety belt usage is only at 59 percent - well below the national average of 63 percent for secondary-law states. Experience shows that upgrading to a primary safety belt law can result in up to a 15 percent increase in safety belt usage statewide.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that if Florida had a primary enforcement safety belt law, 200 lives would be saved and 6,134 injuries prevented the first year. This represents $385.1 million in potential savings to taxpayers.