Major Traffic Laws of Florida


In this course, we will:
  • Review the major traffic laws of Florida;
  • Examine how drugs and alcohol affect driver behavior;
  • Understand the physiological basis for the effects of drugs and alcohol;
  • Review psychological factors related to abuse of drugs and alcohol; and
  • Consider the social and economic cost of abuse of drugs and alcohol
Section 1: Licensing and Insurance Requirements

Graduated Licensing In Florida

Florida was one of the first states to implement a "Graduated Licensing Law." This is a licensing system that allows young people to gradually gain driving experience while protecting them from some of the major risks of driving.

There are two levels of "graduated" licenses in Florida that allow teenagers between 15 and 18 years of age to safely gain driving experience before obtaining a standard ("Class E") license.

These stages of the graduated driver licensing (GDL) system include specific components and restrictions to introduce driving privileges gradually to beginning drivers. Novice drivers who are 15 to 18 years old must required to demonstrate responsible driving behavior in each stage of licensing before advancing to the next level/stage of licensing.

Learner's License

A Learner's License is a "beginners" license for people 15 to 18 years of age. (People over than 18 may optionally obtain a Learner's license before acquiring a Class E license, but it is not required.)

To obtain a Learner's License you must:
  • Be at least 15 years old
  • Provide proof that you have completed a Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education course
  • Have your parents or guardian sign the Parental Consent form in the presence of a driver's license examiner (or else have their signatures notarized)
  • Provide documents which establish proof of your identity, your social security number, and your address
  • Pass a written test on road rules and road signs
  • Pass a vision and hearing test
You may then:
  • Drive only with a licensed driver, 21 years of age or older, who occupies the front passenger seat closest to the right of the driver
  • Drive only during daylight hours for the first three months and only between 6 am and 10 pm thereafter
Intermediate License

An "Intermediate License" is essentially a Class E (standard) license for people under 18 years of age who meet certain requirements. It has a number of significant

restrictions when compared to a regular Class E license, most of which have to do with time restrictions. If you ignore these restrictions your license may be revoked.

To obtain an Intermediate License you must:
  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Must be in compliance with school attendance, if under 18.
  • Have held a Learner's License (from Florida or another jurisdiction) for at least one year without any traffic violations for the last 12 months
  • Present a parent or guardian certification that you have at least 50 hours of behind- the-wheel driving experience, of which 10 hours must be at night
  • Provide documents which establish proof of your identity, your social security number, and your address
  • Pass an on-road driving test (or present a waiver from an accepted Driver's Education course)
You may then:

  • Drive unaccompanied but only during certain hours of the day:
    • For 16 years old you can drive between 6 AM and 11 PM
    • For 17 year olds you can drive between 5 AM and 1 AM
  • Drive unaccompanied at any time of the day, but only if driving yourself to and from work
  • Drive at anytime of the day if accompanied by a licensed driver, 21 years of age or older, who occupies the front passenger seat closest to the right of the driver at all times.
Full Privileged Class E License

No mandatory restrictions.

Question: For what reason can drivers under 21 years old have their licenses suspended or restricted for reasons that don't apply to older drivers?

The Answer: Florida has a very special "Zero Tolerance Law" that applies to all drivers under 21 years of age regardless of the type of license they have. Any moving violation involving alcohol with result in a mandatory administrative suspension of your license.

Important Information

Any driver under 21 years of age that is found to have a breath or blood alcohol level (BAL) of .02 (a very low level that can result from even one drink) they will have their license automatically suspended for six months. A second offense will result in a one year suspension.

Any driver under 21 with a BAL of .05 or higher will also automatically have their license suspended for 6 months and is required to attend a substance abuse course. An evaluation will be completed and parents or legal guardians will be notified of the results for all drivers under the age of 19.

Any driver who has a BAL of .08 or higher can be convicted for driving under the influence (DUI). Even if it just your first offense, a DUI can result in a jail sentence of up to 6 months, and of course, your license will be suspended, You also will pay expensive fines starting at $1000, and will have to pay for an interlock device on your car. ( An interlock device that tests your breath for alcohol before you can start your car, and keeps a record for the police)

If your BAL is .15 or higher, or if you have a minor child in the car when you are pulled over, you may be in jail for up to 9 months and all the other penalties get higher also.

IMPORTANT! Any driver that refuses to take a breath or urine test when asked to by a police officer will have his or her driving privilege automatically suspended for one year. In addition to any other penalties, a second or subsequent refusal is a first degree misdemeanor.

If you drink alcohol, even a little, your chances of being in a crash is much greater than if you did not drink any alcohol. Alcohol slows your reflexes and reaction time, reduces your ability to see clearly and makes you less alert.

No one can drink alcohol and drive safely, even if you have been driving for many years. Young drivers are more affected by alcohol because their bodies are still in the growth process and their livers have not developed to the extent that they can efficiently process the alcohol in their blood stream.

A person's judgment is the first thing affected after drinking an alcoholic beverage.Good judgment is important to driving but in this case, judgment helps you to know when to stop drinking.

Review the information on Penalties for DUI below:

Section 2: Penalties For DUI

First Conviction

Penalty  Description
Fine: $500-$1,000, with BAL .15 or higher or minor in the vehicle, not less than 1,000 or more than $2,000
Community Service 50 hours
Probation Not more than 1 year
Imprisonment Not more than 6 months; with BAL .15 or higher or minor in the vehicle, not more than 9 months
License Revocation Minimum 180 days
DUI School 12 hours DUI School Requirement Evaluation conducted to determine need for treatment
Ignition Interlock Device Up to 6 continuous months at driver's expense on all vehicles they may operate

Second Conviction

Penalty  Description
Fine: $1,000-$2000, with BAL .15 or higher or minor in the vehicle, not less than $2000 or more than $4000
Imprisonment Not more than 9 months; 2nd conviction within 5 years, 10 days in jail, 48 hours of confinement must be consecutive
License Revocation Minimum 180 days; 2nd offense within 5 years after first conviction; 5 year revocation
DUI School 21 hours DUI School Requirement Evaluation conducted to determine need for treatment
Ignition Interlock Minimum of one continuous year at driver's expense on all vehicles they may operate

A police officer pulls you over for swerving within your lane. You think you're doing just fine on the physical dexterity impairment tests, but he tells you he wants you to take a breathalyzer test.

Question: TRUE or FALSE: You have a Constitutionally protected right to refuse the test since there is no evidence that you are impaired.

The Answer: The statement is FALSE. You have no right to refuse the test.
Under the law, when you operate a vehicle in the state of Florida, you are agreeing to take a breath, urine, or blood test whenever requested to do so by a police officer. This is known as the "Implied Consent" law.

Third Conviction

Penalty  Description
Fine: $2,000-$5,000, with BAL .15 or higher or minor in the vehicle, not less than $4,000
Imprisonment Not more than 12 months; 3rd conviction within 10 years, mandatory 30 days in jail; 48 hours must be consecutive
License Revocation Minimum Minimum 180 days; 3rd offense within 10 years after second conviction; 10 year revocation
DUI School 21 hours DUI School Requirement Evaluation conducted to determine need for treatment
Ignition Interlock Minimum of two continuous years at driver's expense on all vehicles they may operate

Question: TRUE or FALSE: Whether you fail the breathalyzer or not, you cannot be found to be "driving under the influence" because you were not driving at the time the police officer arrived.

The Answer: The statement is FALSE. Under the law, you are DUI if you are "in physical control of a vehicle" while impaired. The vehicle does not have to be moving and you do not have to be awake! So if you drink too much, don't count on being able to stop somewhere and sleep it off.

Fourth or More Convictions

Penalty  Description
Fine: Not less than $1000
Imprisonment Not more than 5 years
License Revocation Permanent revocation*
Ignition Interlock Five years at driver's expense on all vehicles they may operate

* There is one final saving grace for persons whose driving privilege has been permanently revoked because he or she has been convicted four or more times of violating s. 316.193 (Driving Under the Influence):

People in this situation may, upon the expiration of 5 years after the date of the last conviction or the expiration of 5 years after the termination of any incarceration, whichever is later, petition the department for reinstatement of his or her driving privilege.

Within 30 days after receipt of a petition, the department shall provide for a hearing. At the hearing, you must demonstrate that you:
  1. Have not been arrested for a drug-related offense for at least 5 years prior to filing the petition;
  2. Have not driven a motor vehicle without a license for at least 5 years prior to the hearing;
  3. Have been drug-free for at least 5 years prior to the hearing; and
  4. Have completed a DUI program licensed by the department.
If all of the above requirements have been met and the department deems you fit to drive and determines based on facts that you have an absolute need to drive, it may reinstate your driver's license. The reinstatement shall be subject to the following qualifications:

  • Your license is a permanent hardship license which is restricted to employment purposes for not less than one year; and
  • You must be supervised by a DUI program (which you are responsible for the associated costs) licensed by the department and must report to the program for supervision and education at least four times a year or more, as required by the program, for the remainder of the revocation period. The supervision shall include evaluation, education, referral into treatment, and other activities required by the department.
  • If, after reinstatement, you are convicted of an offense for which mandatory license revocation is required, the department shall revoke your driving privilege.

Section 3: Consuming Alcohol and Driving Under The Influence

You know, Florida has some of the toughest drinking-and-driving laws in the country.

Seriously! you can get 3 points on your license for just having an open container of alcohol in your car, even if no one is drinking from it!

The legal drinking age in Florida is 21. That means that there should be no alcohol in the body of any driver under age 21. So if you have a Learner's License or Intermediate License, this almost certainly means you.

If you refuse to take a test when asked, your license will automatically be suspended for one year. If you refuse a second time, the suspension is 18 months and you are guilty of a first degree misdemeanor. Please note: A second or subsequent refusal to submit to a breath, urine, or blood test, is a first degree misdemeanor in addition to any other penalties.

If you are involved in crash that results in death or serious injury, you'll be required to take a blood test with or without your consent. Blood will be drawn even if you're unconscious and the results of the test will be used as evidence.

We've already discussed the fact that an under-age driver with a breath or blood alcohol level (BAL) of .02 automatically loses their license for 6 months.

Anyone, regardless of age, is considered to be "driving under the influence" (DUI) when their BAL is .08 or higher.

A DUI conviction is an extremely serious offense. You've probably seen newspaper headlines where some public official or famous sports figure has been found guilty of DUI. They say all publicity is good publicity for celebrities, but believe me, this is one time they DON'T want to see their face on the front page!

A DUI conviction stays on your driving record for 75 years, and the Progressive DUI Law increases the penalties and fees every time you are caught drinking and driving, resulting in heavy fines, increased insurance rates, loss of license and even jail sentences.

The penalties for DUI depend on whether or not there are past DUI convictions, how high the BAL is, and whether or not a minor is in the car.

Driving Under the Influence

What exactly does "driving" under the influence mean? For example, let's say you've had quite a bit to drink. You get behind the wheel and start to drive. At some point you feel like you're going to pass out so you pull over, stop the car, and fall asleep. A little later a police officer finds you, wakes you up, and asks you to take a breathalyzer test.

As you can see, being convicted of DUI, even if it's a first offense, there's no collision, and nobody gets injured, is still a big deal.

Between the fines, the increase in insurance premiums, the cost to attend DUI school, possible attorney fees, ignition interlock device, and time lost from work, the expense can run into many, many thousands of dollars.

Do you have everything you need? What about insurance?

Section 4: Florida Financial Responsibility (Insurance) Law

In Florida, there are two motor vehicle insurance laws. They are:
  1. The Financial Responsibility Law
  2. The No-Fault law.
It's important that you understand these laws because if you do not have the proper insurance, you can lose your driver license and license plate(s) and have to pay large fees to get them back.

The Financial Responsibility Law requires owners and operators of motor vehicles to be financially responsible for damages and/or injuries they may cause to others when a motor vehicle crash happens.

This law requires any person to have bodily injury liability insurance, and motor vehicle insurance policy from a company licensed to do business in Florida on any vehicle you own or drive, including motorcycles. This insurance must be in place for the entire vehicle registration period, or turn the plate back in.

Under the No-Fault Law, Florida requires a car owner to buy a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP). PIP covers you and your passengers. It's considered "no-fault insurance" because everyone is covered by their own PIP insurance, regardless of who caused the crash. People riding in your vehicle who carry PIP will receive coverage under their own PIP for their injuries.

You must carry written proof of insurance whenever you drive and show it to a police officer if you are pulled over. You must share your insurance information with any other driver with whom you are involved in a collision.

Do you know what what kind of insurance and how much coverage is required for cars licensed and registered in Florida?

Minimum Requirements

Every car licensed and registered in Florida must be covered by an insurance policy purchased from an insurance company licensed by the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Insurance covers you, your family members, and, in most instances, anyone driving your car with your permission when you or they are sued as a result of causing a crash.

Florida's minimum coverage is:
  •     $10,000 personal liability for bodily injury / one person
  •     $20,000 personal liability for bodily injury / two or more people
  •     $10,000 for damage to property (including other driver's car)
  •     $30,000 combined single limits
Under Florida's Financial Responsibility Law, if you fail to carry insurance on your vehicle while driving, your license and/or registration can be suspended for up to three years and will have to pay an insurance suspension fee between $150 and $500. In addition, if you or the driver of your vehicle is liable for causing a crash and you have no insurance, you or your parents can be required to personally pay for all damages before your license is reinstated.

Did You Know?

If you own a car registered in Florida that's not being driven (for example, the car is being garaged while you're away at college in another state) you must still keep it properly insured or your driver's license can be suspended. You can get your license back when you provide proof of insurance, but it'll cost you $150 to $500 in penalties.

If you won't be using your car for a long time and don't want to pay for insurance, turn in the registration and license plates to the DMV.

DUI Requirements

If you are convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) then you must maintain higher liability limits ($100,000, $300,000, $50,000 respectively) for three years after you get your license back and you will have to pay a reinstatement fee of $15 to get your license back.

Alternatively, you can post a bond or furnish a Certificate of Deposit for at least $350,000.

"Driving is not a right – it's a privilege."

Section 5: License Suspension, Revocation, and Cancellation

Florida uses a point system to identify unsafe drivers. Each time you're convicted of a traffic violation or are at fault in a collision, it's recorded on your driving record and "points" are assessed depending on the severity of the violation, with a maximum of 6 points for any single violation.

Florida's Point System

Let's take a look at a list of common violations and their associated points.


Leaving the scene of a collision which resulted in property damage of more than $50 6
Unlawful speed resulting in a collision 6
Any moving violation resulting in a collision 4
Reckless driving 4
Passing a stopped school bus 4
Violation of a traffic control signal/sign/device 4
Unlawful speed – 16 MPH or more over lawful or posted speed 4
Unlawful speed – 15 MPH or less over lawful or posted speed 3
[Note that fines are doubled in a school or construction zone, with possible fine up to $1,000 and requirement to complete a driving school course.] 3
Driving during restricted hours 3
Violation of curfew 3
Open container of alcohol in car (charged to operator of car no matter who is drinking) 3
Child Restraint Violation 3
All other moving violations 3

Did You Know?

You can be fined $1,000 for going 50 MPH over the speed limit. (Just try to imagine what that would mean – 75 in a 25 MPH zone? That's way too fast!)

A second offense means a $2,500 fine and losing your license for one year. You'll pay $5,000 for the third offense and forfeit your license for 10 years – assuming that you're still alive by that time.

Driving without a seatbelt is a 3 point violation, even for passengers. If you are under 18 the driver gets the points, but if you are over 18, you get the points.

Suspended means that your license is temporarily taken away for a period of time.

For example, if you accumulate 12 points within a 12 month period, your license will be suspended up to 30 days.

Accumulate 18 points within an 18 month period, and your license will be suspended for up to 3 months.

Collect 24 points in a 36-month period, and you lose your license for up to a year.

Young drivers beware! If you are under 18 and accumulate just 6 points in a 12 month period, you will be restricted for 1 year to a "Business Purpose ONLY" license.

But getting too many points isn't the only way your license can be suspended.

Suspension of License

Reasons for temporary loss of driving privileges (suspension) may include, but are not limited to, the following:
  •     Allowing your license to be used for an illegal purpose (for example, letting a minor use it for fake ID)
  •     Misusing a restricted license (for example, driving with a Learner's License without meeting all the requirements)
  •     Failure to provide proof of insurance
  •     Failure to provide child support
  •     Failure to appear in court when required or to pay fines
  •     Refusal to submit to a DUI test
  •     Failure to stop for a school bus
  •     Being habitually truant from school or smoking (if you are under age 18)
  •     Committing retail theft (for example, shoplifting)
  •     Any conviction in a traffic court in which the court orders your license be suspended

Question: What's the difference between a "suspended" license and a "revoked" license?

The Answer: "Suspended" means that your privilege to drive has been temporarily withdrawn (or "paused"), but that you can get your license back when you meet certain requirements. "Revoked" means your privilege to drive is terminated.

What it Means

So again, "suspended" means that your privilege to drive has been temporarily withdrawn, but that you can get your license back when you meet certain requirements.

To reinstate your license after a suspension, you must:
  •     Wait out the period of suspension
  •     Attend any required driver improvement school
  •     Pay any fees or fines ordered by the court
  •     Show proof of insurance (if relevant)

Revocation of License

Your license will be revoked if you are found guilty of:
  •     Driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other controlled substances.
  •     A felony in which a motor vehicle is used.
  •     Not stopping to give help when the vehicle you are driving is involved in a crash causing death or personal injury.
  •     Lying about the ownership or operation of a motor vehicle.
  •     Three cases of reckless driving within one year. (Forfeiting bail and not going to court to avoid being convicted of reckless driving counts the same as a conviction.)
  •     An immoral act in which a motor vehicle was used.
  •     Three major offenses or 15 offenses for which you receive points within a 5-year period.
  •     A felony for drug possession.
  •     Racing on the highway.

In addition, you may get your license suspended or revoked if you have certain medical conditions (i.e. seizures, neurological conditions) or if you no longer meet physical requirements to drive safely, such as failed eyesight. Your license can be revoked until the medical condition improves (period of one day to life).

"Revoked" means your privilege to drive is terminated. You may be allowed to re-apply for a license once the period of revocation (which can be anywhere from one day to life) is over, provided you meet certain conditions.

Being a habitual offender is one of the ways you can get your driving privilege revoked. What is a habitual offender?

According to Section 322.264 of the Florida Motor Vehicles statute, you are a "habitual offender" if your driving record, as maintained by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, shows that you have accumulated within a 5-year period, three or more convictions of any one or more of the following offenses arising out of separate acts:
  1.     Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;
  2.     Any violation of s. 316.193, former s. 316.1931, or former s. 860.01;
  3.     Any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used;
  4.     Driving a motor vehicle while his or her license is suspended or revoked;
  5.     Failing to stop and render aid as required under the laws of this state in the event of a motor vehicle crash resulting in the death or personal injury of another; or
  6.     Driving a commercial motor vehicle while his or her privilege is disqualified
Even if you do nothing wrong, your license may be cancelled. For example, if you move to another state and are required to turn in your Florida license in order to obtain a license from that state.

Your license can also be cancelled if it is discovered that you provided false information when applying for the license, or even if you paid with a bad check!

Cancellation of License

The State of Florida can refuse to issue you a license at all if, for example, you:
  •     Have a license from another state which is currently suspended or revoked.
  •     Are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
  •     Cannot drive safely because of mental or physical problems. (Don't forget you have to pass a vision test – but deafness alone will not keep you from getting a license.)
  •     Have failed to complete a Department-required school within the time required.
Did You Know?

It is against the law to drive without a valid driver's license. If your license is cancelled, revoked, or suspended, and you drive you could be fined, jailed, or both.

If you have a Florida license, and receive a citation in another state, the DMV in that state will report that violation to Florida, and it will become part of your Florida driving record.

It's The Law: Smoking inside a vehicle when a person younger than 18 years of age is present is illegal at all times.
Disqualification from Operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle

If you have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL), you are expected to be on your best driving behavior and there are stiff consequences to pay if you commit certain violations. For example, if have a CDL and you commit two (2) of the following violations (or any combination thereof) within a 3-year period, you will be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for a period of 60 days:
  •     A violation resulting in a crash that caused death or personal injury to any person.
  •     Reckless driving.*
  •     Careless driving.
  •     Fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.
  •     Unlawful speed of 15 miles per hour or more above the posted speed limit.
  •     Driving a commercial motor vehicle which is not properly insured.
  •     Following too closely.
  •     Driving a commercial vehicle without having 1) a Commercial Driver's License; 2) the proper class of CDL; 3) the proper endorsement, or 4) the CDL in your possession.
* Note: If you are convicted of reckless driving while operating a commercial motor vehicle, you will be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for one year.

If you are a CDL holder and commit three (3) of the above serious violations within a 3-year period while driving a commercial vehicle, you will be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for a period of 120 days plus an additional 60 days if these violations were committed while operating a noncommercial vehicle and the convictions result in the suspension, revocation or cancellation of the license holder's driving privilege.

In addition, commercial driver's license holders convicted of any of the following offenses will be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for one (1) year*:
  •     Driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance;
  •     Driving a commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of .04 or higher.
  •     Leaving the scene of a crash.
  •     Using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony.
  •     Driving a commercial motor vehicle while in possession of a controlled substance.
  •     Refusing to submit to a test to determine his or her alcohol concentration while driving a motor vehicle.
  •     Driving a commercial vehicle while the license holder's commercial driver's license is suspended, revoked, or canceled or while the license holder is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle.
  •     Causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a commercial motor vehicle.
* Note: A CDL holder that commits two of any of the above violations in separate incidents will permanently be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle.

A CDL holder that commits any of the above violations while transporting hazardous materials will be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for three (3) years.

Keeping a clean driving record is important for reasons that go beyond safety and your ability to drive. Most of your driving record is available to the public. Law enforcement agencies, employers, and insurance companies can also check your driving record.

Section 6: Safety Equipment: Seat Belts, Child Restraint, and Air Bags

The first goal of every driver is never to be involved in a collision. But no matter how safely you drive, you can't control everything that happens on the road – like other people speeding or driving while impaired. So your second goal has to be to try to minimize injury in case there is a crash or you have to slam on your brakes or swerve the car.

Florida has a "Primary Seat Belt" law. That means that you can be pulled over just because you or a passenger is not wearing a seat belt.

Florida law requires:
  •     Anyone riding in the front seat of a car built after 1968 must wear a seat belt. (The threshold is 1972 for trucks.)
  •     Children under 5 years of age to be properly restrained no matter where they are seated in the vehicle.
  •     Children through age 3 must be secured in a separate carrier (child safety seat) or in a vehicle manufacturer's integrated child safety seat.
  •     For children ages 4 - 5, a separate carrier, an integrated child safety seat, or a safety belt may be used.
  •     If a safety belt does not fit the child correctly, a booster set should be used to correctly position the lap and shoulder belts once they outgrow forward facing child safety seats (generally at about 40 pounds and 4 years old).
  •     Children from approximately 40-80 pounds and under 4'9" in height should ride in a booster seat.
In addition, infants must ride rear-facing until they are at least one year old and weigh 20 pounds or more. Rear-facing, the infant should be semi-upright at an angle or no more than 45 degrees. A forward-facing older child should ride sitting upright.

Never place a child in a child safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with a passenger air bag. Always use the back seat.

Section 7: Penalties For Violating Florida Seat Belt and Child Restraint Laws

Seat Belt

If you're over 18 and you're a passenger in the front seat and not wearing a seat belt, you get the penalty.

For anyone in the car not wearing a seat belt under age 18, the driver gets the penalty.
Child Restraint Violation of the Florida child restraint law carries a fine of $60 and 3 points on the driving record. Please note that 3 points is equivalent to a speeding ticket

(moving violation)!

Think about this

Traffic collisions are the number one killer of children in America. Every day in the U.S. five children under the age of 14 are killed in cars.

Over 90% of deaths and 80% of injuries in car crashes could be prevented by using approved child restraints.

The safest position for anyone in car is in the center rear seat. This is the best place to position a child. The left and right rear seats are the next safest place.

Children under 12 should always sit in the back.

Your chances of dying are 5 times more likely if you are thrown from a car because you were not wearing a seatbelt. Buckle up and keep the odds of survival on your

Question: If a person is properly restrained by a seat belt, is it safe to have an infant in their arms while the car is moving as long as they are holding the baby tightly?

The Answer: NO. Experts have calculated that a person restrained by a seatbelt in a head-on collision at only 30 mph has a force of about 30g's exerted on their body.

That means a 10 pound baby would feel like 300 pounds at impact. No one is strong enough to hang on to a baby under these kinds of forces.

Wearing a seat belt incorrectly can be dangerous

For example, if a small child is wearing a seat belt without sitting in a booster seat so that the shoulder belt is lying across the child's neck instead of their chest, the child's neck could be broken in a crash.

In the same way, an adult who wears a shoulder belt without a lap belt or who tucks the shoulder belt under their arm may also be risking serious injury in a collision.

So be sure that seat belts are positioned properly (around the hips, not around the stomach, and with the shoulder belt across the chest) and those children are properly positioned in child restraint seats or booster seats.

Speaking of children and safety, young children should never be left unattended in a car, even for a few minutes. It's tempting to leave a sleeping child in the car while you run into a store for just a few minutes, but it's illegal and dangerous.

Let's stop here for a minute and stretch our legs. All this talk about seat belts and safety reminds me of an old joke.

Air Bags

Air bags are another wonderful safety feature in modern cars that save lives, but they are intended to be used in addition to seat belts, not in place of seat belts.

Airbags only absorb the initial impact in a crash. Very often there is a second collision, as when a car behind you smashes into your rear end when you have just collided with another car. This is why you should always wear your seat belt, even if you have airbags.

There are some dangers associated with airbags. The impact of an airbag can actually harm and even kill children. This is because it hits them too high up on their head and with too much force for their small bodies and snaps their head backwards. This is why children should never be seated near an airbag.

If you are in an emergency situation and absolutely must transport a child in a front seat with an airbag, push the seat back as far away from the airbag as possible.

Tilt the seat backwards slightly to move the child's head even farther from the bag and so that the force of the bag will be directed up and over the child's head.

Adults should also position their seats as far away from an airbag as possible. Drivers should not sit closer than ten inches from a steering wheel with an airbag in it. Short drivers should consider sitting on a cushion to raise themselves up a few inches so that if an airbag is deployed, they will be in the safest position.

Did You Know?

One of the most important pieces of safety equipment in your car is the lowly headrest. In many crashes, your head will snap back and then forward, causing whiplash.

Your head will also be forced backwards if an airbag is released.

Your headrest should be properly adjusted so that it prevents your head from going backwards.

In Florida, it's a misdemeanor to leave a child alone for more than 15 minutes in a car. But even 15 minutes can be deadly in the Florida sun. Even with the windows cracked (which does very little to cool the car) the temperature inside the car can rise to over 100 degrees in a very short time.

There is no safe way to leave a child alone in a car. The same is true for pets, for that matter. Your pet is just as helpless as a child.

Let's Review

Licensing - Florida has a "graduated licensing" system that allows young drivers to safely gain experience by gradually expanding the hours and conditions under which they can drive:
  •         A "Learner's License" can be obtained at age 15.
  •         An "Intermediate License" can be obtained at age 16.
  •         At age 18, a driver can obtain a "Class E" standard license.
Insurance - Insurance requirements go up for drivers who have been convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Florida's minimum coverage is:
  •         $10,000 personal liability for bodily injury for one person.
  •         $20,000 personal liability for bodily injury for two or more people.
  •         $10,000 for damage to property (including the other driver's car).
  •         $30,000 combined single limits.
Point System - Florida uses a "point" system to identify unsafe drivers. Points are assessed every time a driver is convicted of a moving violation. The number of points varies depending on the severity of the violation. Accumulating excessive points can result in:
  •         License suspension or revocation.
  •         Fines and penalties.
  •         Mandatory attendance at a driver safety course.
DUI - A driver is considered to be "driving under the influence" (DUI) with a blood alcohol level of .08. Penalties for DUI are progressive depending on the number of past convictions, and can include:
  •         Fines
  •         Probation
  •         Imprisonment
  •         Community service
  •         License revocation
  •         Required attendance at DUI school
  •         Required installation of an ignition interlock device
Seat Belts and Child Restraints - In Florida, the driver, front seat passenger, anyone in the car under age 18 must wear a seat belt or appropriate child restraint device. Airbags are intended for use in addition to seat belts, not in place of seat belts. Never put a child in a seat that has an airbag – they can kill children.