Admit it: at some point while planning a vacation, you seriously considered not bringing your child’s carseat because it was going to be too cumbersome. We’ve all been there, whether it’s been a dream vacation to an exotic island where the main mode of transportation is paddle board or a Disney park adventure where all you need are a good pair of shoes and a stroller. Or perhaps you live in a city where you don’t need to own a car and occasionally take a taxi or ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft? Does the thought of hauling a carseat through crowded city streets to an appointment or to a playdate make you cringe? Well, it shouldn’t.
Kids are a pain. Having kids means hauling around a lot of gear, at least initially. It does get easier the older they get—and then they can haul their own stuff, little work beasts. Let’s look at why it’s so important to always use restraints for children and why physics doesn’t magically change when you ride in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle, or go on vacation.
One basic equation that we use as child passenger safety technicians to help caregivers understand force is force = child’s weight x speed of the vehicle. This puts us in the ballpark since the amount of force is actually a much more complicated equation measuring acceleration and returning the answer in Newtons. It’s easier for our purposes to say Little Joshie exerts 1050 lbs. of force (he weighs 35 lbs. in a 30 mph crash). Remember that and let’s go on vacation (this also applies to those of you living in the city who take taxis or ride-sharing services).
Joshie just turned 4 and weighs 35 lbs. “That’s big enough, right? I can hold him on my lap.” We tell ourselves as we try to justify not taking his regular convertible carseat with us. It weighs close to 30 lbs., we guess, and he’d cry if he sat in it for the long flight. Besides, we’d only use it for the taxi ride to the hotel and maybe on another taxi ride if we decided to leave the hotel to sight-see.
Joshie is too small to fit in an adult seat belt. In a crash, he would submarine under the lap portion of the seat belt and be injured. Booster seats reduce the risk of serious injury by 45% for kids aged 4-8.
If Joshie or his parents ride without wearing seat belts at all, they are 4 times more likely to be ejected from the vehicle in a crash.
Unbelted passengers in a vehicle increase the likelihood of injury or death to other occupants in the vehicle by 40%. A passenger who is not wearing a seat belt sitting directly behind the driver increases the risk of fatality for the driver by 137%. Unbelted passengers are like bullets in a crash: they have no control over their bodies and they are traveling with tremendous force. Remember our equation above? If Joshie is 35 lbs. and in a 30 mph crash and isn’t restrained, he’s traveling with 1050 lbs. of force. Imagine the force an adult carries.
You cannot hold a child in your arms to restrain him in a vehicle. In a crash, Joshie carries 1050 lbs. of force. Can your arms withstand that amount of force? Even a 7 lb. newborn exerts 210 lbs. of force in a 30 mph crash. Good luck with that. Are you willing to risk your child’s life on your ego?
You *must* buckle up in the back seat in 28 states and the District of Columbia. To see a list of which states require the use of seat belts in the back seat, click here. There may be an exemption for seat belt use while in a taxi, but after reading what you’ve read here and thinking about it, does it make sense to not buckle up?
What Should You Do?
Obviously best practice would be to take your regular carseat, or a carseat you bought specifically for travel or as a secondary carseat. You and your child are familiar with this carseat and you’ll be able to install it quickly (hopefully!) and use it easily.
Take a booster seat for your child age 3+. Hold on now, deep breath. I know some of you are nearly having a heart attack at the suggestion of a booster for a 3 year old. It’s better than nothing and if a parent is sitting right next to the child for supervision, it works. This must be a booster that doesn’t have an age requirement on it and check the weight requirements.
Use a seat belt. Any seat belt is better than being unrestrained or being held in arms.
You DO have options!
Check out the Travel Carseats: The Ultimate Guide to What You Want to Take on A Plane article. If you have an infant, you can easily use whatever infant seat you have if it can be used baseless. Practice that baseless install and you’re golden! For infants and toddlers, the Scenera NEXT is a very lightweight convertible that’s easy to install. For older kids, the RideSafer 2 Travel Vest and the IMMI GO. The BubbleBum Booster is a portable inflatable booster that fits inside a backpack.
Uber also has UberFAMILY in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. UberFAMILY provides one IMMI GO per vehicle for an additional $10 (UberFAMILY in Philadelphia also provides 2 BubbleBums along with the IMMI GO per vehicle). The IMMI GO is tested for kids 31-52” tall and who weigh between 22-48 lbs. (Uber uses a lower weight limit). It’s a forward-facing only carseat.
I know you love your child and would never do anything to intentionally hurt him. Sometimes we get so caught up in the details of a trip—whether across town or around the world—and we can’t see the big picture. If you can watch the above video and not take something away from it regarding unrestrained passengers, I’m not sure I can get through to you. Unfortunately, people are injured and killed every day riding in taxis and ride-sharing vehicles; we aren’t surrounded by a magical safety bubble when we leave our home base. All we can do is prepare and make sure we’ve done our best for our children.