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The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has enacted several regulations to keep drivers and passengers safe on the road. These regulations cover everything from helmet use, drunken driving, seat belts, child car seats and cell phone use. It is your responsibility to comply with these regulations to avoid penalties such as driver’s license suspension, fines, tickets or jail terms.
Child Car Seat Laws
It is your responsibility as a driver to ensure every child younger than 7 years old is riding in a federally approved child car seat. If you fail to ensure that, you will receive 3 points on your driver’s license and face a fine of up to $60. Basically this law states that:
- Any child younger than 7 years old must ride in a federally approved child restraint system.
- Any child younger than 3 years old must ride in a special car seat or built-in child seat.
- Any child between 4 years old and 7 years old and shorter than 4 feet 9 inches must ride in a built in child seat or a separate car seat.
FLHSMV guidelines on child passengers
Children under 1 year and at least 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing child car seat at the back of the vehicle. Children between 1 year and 4 years and weighing between 20 to 40 pounds should use a rear-facing child car seat at the back of the vehicle. Children between 4 years old and 8 years old, weighing over 40 pounds or 4 feet 9 inches, must use a forward-facing child seat at the back of the vehicle. If they outgrow the child seat, they can switch to a booster seat. Children between 8 years old and 12 years old and taller than 4 feet 9 inches should use a booster seat in the back seat. For more information on child seat laws, read the Florida HSMV’s safety brochure.
Seat Belt Laws in Florida
The FLHSMV requires you to wear a seat belt while driving a vehicle if you are:
- The driver of the vehicle.
- Under 18 years old.
- A front seat passenger of any age.
If you fail to comply with this law, you will face a fine of up to $30 plus any other additional fees. Wearing of a seat belt is not compulsory if you:
- Have a physical or medical condition that is making it hard of you to use a seat belt.
- Are a newspaper vendor delivering newspapers.
- Are a worker in a waste collection company.
Cell Phone Use
All drivers in Florida, regardless of age, are banned from texting while driving on state roads. Cell phone use for talking while driving is allowed.
Florida Helmet Laws
- Motorcycle: All motorcycle riders younger than 21 years old are required to wear federally-approved helmets. If you have at least $10,000 in medical insurance cover, you will be exempted from this requirement.
- Moped Helmet: If you are younger than 16 years old, you must wear a helmet while operating a moped.
- Bicycle Helmet: All bicycle riders younger than 16 years old must wear an approved bicycle helmet. Failure to comply with this law will result into a fine of up to $15.
DUI and Drunk Driving Laws
If you are convicted of driving under the influence, you will face the following penalties:
- A fine of between $500 and $2,000 depending on whether a minor was present in your vehicle and your blood alcohol level. 50 hours of community service.
- $10 fine for each hour of community service.
- 1 year probationary period.
- Up to 9 months jail term depending on your blood alcohol level.
- 10 days impoundment of your car.
- Up to 1 year driver’s license suspension.
Report a Drunk or Dangerous Driver
If you suspect a drunk driver, contact your local law enforcement officers immediately. Some typical signs of a drunk driver include:
- Swerving across lanes.
- Poor judgment.
- Braking too early.
- Delayed or no reaction to traffic signals.
- Unusual behaviors on the road.
You can also anonymously report unsafe drivers to the FLDHSMV through their online reporting portal. The following are some of the medical condition that can make one classified as unsafe driver:
- Seizure disorders.
- Drug and alcohol addiction.
- Severe psychiatric disorders.
- Sleep disorders.
- Visual impairments.
- Severe cardiovascular impairments.
- Severe head injuries.
- Memory or judgment problems.
For more information about reporting an unsafe driver, visit the Division of Motorist Services – Medical Review Section website. You can also call their helpline number which is (850) 617-3814.
Unattended Children in Florida
The state penalizes adults who unknowingly leave children younger than 6 years old unattended in a parked or running vehicle. If the vehicle is running you can face a fine between $50 and $500. If the vehicle is parked and you leave a child unattended for more than 15 minutes, you will receive a fine of up to $100.
Florida Headlight Laws
- Cars: All motor vehicles must be equipped with 2 headlights on the front side. The headlights must be turned on after sunset until sunrise and whenever the road visibility is reduced.
- Motorcycles: Motorcycle headlight must be turned on during the day and at night when you are on the road.
- Bicycles: Your bicycle must be fitted with a front white lamp which is visible from at least 500 feet and a back facing red reflector visible from at least 600 feet. Both of these lights must be turned on between sunset and sunrise. Failure will result to a $15 fine.
Boating Under the Influence
The following are penalties for boating under the influence of alcohol:
- A fine of $500 to $1,000 and a jail term of up to 6 months for your first offense.
- A fine of $1,000 to $2,000 and jail term of up to 9 months for second offense.
Subsequent offenders will receive heavier penalties. If your blood alcohol level is more than .15% at the time of conviction, you will face the following additional punishments:
- Attendance at a substance abuse course.
- Monthly reporting probation.
- Psychosocial evaluation and treatment.
If you are younger than 21 years old and at the time of conviction and your blood alcohol level was .02% or higher, you will face the following penalties.
- Suspension from operating any vessel.
- Mandatory community service for at least 50 hours.
- Successful completion of an approved boating safety course.