Personal experience led Washington Post reporter and parent Lauren Gravitz to write the recent article “Risky transport: Camps, churches and other programs are trading car-seat safety for convenience.” Read More from “Reporter Confronts Common Myths About Full-Size Vans and CRs”
CPSTs know that children on aircraft are better protected from injury when riding in an approved CR due to the potential of turbulence or crashes. Recently, a new study identified an additional reason: in-flight medical emergencies. In particular, the researchers (three doctors from U.S. universities and hospitals) looked at the in-flight injuries (IFIs, typically trauma or burns) that children sustained. They found such incidents to be infrequent relative to the number of such events to all passengers, but not negligible. Their takeaway: The protection CRs can provide with respect to potential IFIs can expand their in-flight benefits beyond during takeoff, landing, and turbulence.
During a busy summer of travel, I wrote several articles for this issue of SRN while waiting in airports and flying on airplanes. Like most CPSTs, I travel with an awareness of the families around me and always perk up when I see a CR. Alas, contrary to safety recommendations, I find that most CRs that make it as far as the gate are gate-checked rather than used on board. It’s understandable that most parents aren’t fully aware of best practice on airplanes; safety messages can be unclear and confusing in a system that allows children under age 2 to ride on a caregiver’s lap. (And, let’s face it, those safety messages need to be very compelling to overcome parents’ understandable desire to save money by not buying a plane ticket for these infants.)
A motorcoach is a large, non-school bus that does not serve fixed routes (like city transit), but instead travels longer distances, usually on highways. While motorcoaches have a relatively good safety record compared to most other vehicle types, they do not have many of the safety features required of school buses. Nonetheless, groups of children frequently use these types of buses for field trips and sports outings, especially when the trip covers long distances.
The temptation to save money by having a child under age 2 ride on a parent’s lap presents a common dilemma for families. Adding to the confusion is the fact that airlines and the FAA seem to condone the unsafe behavior and that most people figure a plane crash cannot be survived, with or without a CR.
The truth is that all passengers, including young children, are safer when buckled up on an airplane. Although the FAA concluded in August 2005 that it would not require families to purchase a seat for children under age 2, the rationale was data (since convincingly refuted) showing that families would prefer to drive (generally more risky) if they otherwise would have to purchase a plane ticket for the child.
Often, even parents who normally are careful to use a CR for their children for every ride imagine that the interior of a recreational vehicle (RV, or motor home) is somehow a magical zone where the laws of physics do not apply. Caregivers need to know that an RV may not be safe for children.
Children still need to be buckled up appropriately any time they are riding in a vehicle, and this can be a real challenge in an RV. RVs come in a range of style classes (A, B, C, C+, etc.) and, although these do vary in appropriateness for families, none is ideal.
A 2006 study using 2004 data found that, in New York City alone, there were 25 taxi/livery crashes every day that caused injury. That study also found that when taxis were involved in a crash, the taxi passengers were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed than the passengers in the other vehicle in the crash.
So, best practice in taxis (and, in some states, the law) is to use a CR. Dr. Alisa Baer, pediatrician and cofounder of The Car Seat Lady, posts excellent advice on this subject at www.thecarseatlady.com.
In May, options for traveling safely with kids in New York City improved dramatically. Uber, a tech company that creates mobile apps to connect passengers with drivers of for-hire vehicles, added a new option, uberFAMILY. For an upcharge of $10 per ride, customers selecting uberFAMILY from the Uber app will be sent a car that has a forward-facing CR with a five-point harness preinstalled by a trained driver. The service is offered for children over age 1 (and at least 22 pounds/31 inches) and up to 48 pounds or 52 inches. (Children smaller and larger than that are urged to use the appropriate RF-only CR or booster, respectively.)