Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Car Seat Safety Away from Home

It's no secret that we at Travel-Tot feel strongly about childproofing hotel rooms and other away-from-home lodging accommodations; but what about keeping your child safe while you are in transit?  Often families get so caught up in the planning, packing, and preparations for a family getaway that they don't remember that their mode of transportation may not already be child-safe.  Airplanes, taxis, and loaner vehicles are rarely equipped with properly installed safety devices; so what is a parent to do?

Bringing your own car seat or booster is one option!  There have been great strides made in developing safety seats that can be easily transported when not in use.  For example, The Car Seat Lady recommends several fabulous options ranging from infant carriers that easily snap to compact strollers to combination stroller car seat/booster options.  These are great because they not only offer a safer seating option for flights or other vehicular transport, but they can be rolled (with a child it in!) through expansive airports or along sidewalks to taxi or bus depots; freeing up parental hands, and saving backs and sanity! 

If you forget or cannot bring your own car seat or booster, rental car seats are another option.  If the taxi or rental car agency offers to provide a safety restraint seat for your child, be certain to check that it is appropriate for your child's age, weight, and height.  Also be certain it is properly installed and that it is in working order with no broken straps or latches.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website provides a fabulous page with age-appropriate safety seat guidelines if you are unsure of what type of seat to request.

The emergency-only option for families travelling with a child is to use whatever safety feature is available (usually a lap and/or shoulder belt).  While it is true that any restraint is better than no restraint at all, using a safety belt alone on a young child is a last resort option and should never be done if an appropriate car seat or booster seat can be obtained.  If you are in a situation where there is no option other than to use a standard seat belt, there are several important steps you can take to ensure that the restraint offers the best protection it can:
  • Never buckle more than one person into a car seat belt.  Buckling more than once person into a car seat presents the risk of the top person being fatally crushed in the event of a crash. 
  • Never put the shoulder belt behind the back or under the arm of a passenger.
  • Be vigilant about seat belt use for everyone riding in the vehicle; studies have shown that restrained passengers are 4 times more likely to die if someone else in the car is not restrained.
Used properly, car seats and seatbelts save lives... a little planning and research can provide you with the knowledge you need to determine which option will best suit your unique needs. Safe travels!

- Destination Mom


  1. It is pretty common that a a taxi driver will ask you to put the shoulder belt behind your child. We travel with the Bubble Bum inflatable booster seat now that our daughter meets the height and weight requirements (40 lbs. and 40''). It fits in her luggage and has a shoulder belt positioner that puts the belt in the right place across her chest. http://www.beachforbaby.com

  2. I heard from someone on a forum who is both a certified child safety seat technician and a motorhome owner, that child restraints should be used while a child is riding in a motorhome. While having the child ride in another vehicle is best, it is legal for children to ride in a motorhome.

    He also mentioned that carseats made for rear or side facing seats do exist, but are very rare. You don’t find them at Target or Wal-Mart. They can be ordered from manufacturers though.

    He also mentioned that installation of a standard car seat on a rear or side facing seat (even though this is not ideal) does offer far more protection than not placing a child in a safety seat in an RV, and he does this himself. Even though some of the seats are not bolted to the frame in RVs, most of them are strong enough for a child in a safety seat to survive a crash. The other factor is RVs typically travel slower and their weight offers more protection in a crash than some passenger cars (the same is true with buses).

    He also mentioned RVs are exempt from most child restraint laws due to their weight.