Florida's 1995 legislature enacted legislation that allows vehicle owners to donate money to help purchase child safety seats for other Floridians who cannot afford them for their children. Vehicle owners have the opportunity to donate $2 or more to the Highway Safety Operating Trust Fund's $2 Difference Child Safety Seat Program to help needy residents living in their own county obtain car seats for their children. All monies donated to and collected in a given county returns to that county in the form of child safety seats. The child safety seats are then distributed in a manner determined by the local tax collector's office.
The $2 Difference Child Safety Seat Program is a joint statewide program between the county tax collector's offices and the Florida Highway Patrol--with direct support and participation offered by the Division of Motor Vehicles. The original goal of the program is that the county tax collectors would actively promote the program in each of their local offices and become involved in all decisions regarding the program's promotion, collection of donations, distribution of child seats, and training of staff and recipients of child seats. Essentially, the tax collector's office is responsible for promoting the program, informing and training its staff, and ensuring the proper collection of donations designated for the program.
In many cases, local tax collector's offices have designated the Florida Highway Patrol as the distributor of their child safety seats since the Florida Highway Patrol already has a well-established Child Safety Seat Program in place--complete with Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians in every Troop across the state, storage facilities for large quantities of child seats, vehicles for transport of seats, necessary liability and financial screening forms, and mechanisms in place for reaching the public.
Currently, the Florida Highway Patrol is responsible for tracking the donations received for this program through the FRVIS statewide collection system and through private donations, purchasing the child safety seats, ensuring delivery of child seats to designated locations across the state, ensuring payment of the child seats to the vendor, and (in most cases) ensuring the proper distribution and installation of child safety seats for the public.
In other cases, the local tax collector's office has opted to distribute the child seats themselves or has designated another local entity to do so on their behalf. If a tax collector's office distributes the child seats directly to the public themselves, it is important that they have staff members available who are Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians to ensure the child seats are properly installed--and to help protect their agency from liability. In any event, it is recommended that whoever is designated to oversee the distribution of the $2 Difference child safety seats to the public be currently certified in child passenger safety.
After a decade of steadily increasing donations to purchase car seats for this program, donations have recently declined. In fact, the last three years have seen a significant decrease in the amount of donations received. Unfortunately, donations for 2010 only totaled $30,477-- the least amount collected since the program’s inception. We continue to promote the program and encourage donations – the need for assisting low-income families is even greater than before.
Overall, the program is still very active in assisting low income families in Florida. As of January 2011, the $2 Difference Child Safety Seat Program has collected a total of $907,492 in donations from which nearly 20,000 car seats have been purchased for low-income children and needy families across our state.