Car seats – essential for safe travel by air or by land
With the busy holiday travel season right around the corner it is important to remember that car seats are an essential safety device both on the ground and in the air.
Not all car seats can fit on standard airplane seats, which are typically about 16 inches wide, but Dayton Children’s, Safe Kids Greater Dayton, and the Federal Aviation Administration strongly recommend using a car seat in an aircraft whenever possible.
“Air turbulence can be dangerous and can appear suddenly without warning,” said Jessica Saunders, community relations manager at Dayton Children’s. “Infants and toddlers on airplanes are safest in a car seat with a harness. A child who rides in a car seat on the ground should ride in that car seat on a plane.”
Parents should make sure that their child’s car seat is labeled “certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
“You need your child’s car seat to travel to and from the airport anyway,” said Saunders. “Car rental companies might not have reliable car seats available and checking your child’s seat as baggage could result in damage. Your kids are better off in their own car seats.”
Babies younger than 1 year old and 20 pounds are best restrained in a rear-facing car seat, and a forward-facing car seat can protect toddlers up to 40 pounds or more. Children who have outgrown car seats should sit directly on the airplane seat and, like all passengers, keep the lap belt buckled across their thighs or hips. Booster seats are not allowed on airplanes, because they require shoulder belts and airplane seats have only lap belts.
Space for safe traveling on airplanes – Reserve your seat!
The FAA advises travelers with small children to reserve a pair of seats by a window. Car seats are not allowed in aisle seats or exit rows, where they could block emergency escape routes; they must be installed at a window seat.
Parents cannot rely on there being empty seats onboard an aircraft, especially during the busy holiday travel season. Holding a child on an adult’s lap is not the safest option. Whenever possible, buy a child his or her own seat to ensure an approved car seat can be used. Most airlines offer a discount for children younger than 2.
Fasten your seat belts!
Inappropriately restrained children are nearly three and a half times more likely to be seriously injured in a crash than their appropriately restrained counterparts. Children should always wear a safety belt, in a car or in the air.
Adult air travelers should buckle up, too. “You’re a role model,” says Saunders. “Children learn safety behavior by watching parents and caregivers. Also, children who ride in car seats on the ground appear to be more comfortable and better behaved when using one on a plane.”