Friday, January 16, 2009

Seat versus lap baby

Yesterday's US Airways crash-landing in to the Hudson River really got me thinking about what I would or should do with The Boy in the event we are flying and something happens, so I asked a former flight attendant who happens to be a friend of mind. Her response:
Safest place is car seat. You wouldn't be strong enough to hold him on impact. Biggest fights I had when kids were little was making sure they had their own seats, not lap children.
Consider it a PSA. The probability of crashing is tiny, but I am unwilling to risk my child's life and live with the guilt if something happens when I could not hold on to the child's body. Around 15 months I decided I would NEVER fly with The Boy as a lap child again. It was hard and stressful. Every flight since then, he has had his own seat, and I am glad for that. Kevin too since he is the one who flew with him to/from DC last summer.

What does the FAA say?
Did you know the safest place for your little one during turbulence or an emergency is an approved child restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap? ... FAA strongly urges parents and guardians to secure children in an appropriate restraint based on weight and size. Keeping a child in a CRS or device during the flight is the smart and right thing to do.
The FAA stopped short of requiring a CRS for children due to the cost. They felt that requiring its use would cause people to drive, which has a higher risk for accident. However, they never proved or showed any evidence that people would alter their travel by driving or not traveling at all (from the article below).

This column in the USA Today (July 29, 2008) gathered some interesting stances on the use of CRS in aircraft, including:
The Association of Flight Attendants noted in 2004: "AFA does not believe that allowing a child under two to be held on the lap affords the child the same protections as the other passengers. For that reason AFA has advocated for the use of child restraints during takeoff, landing, and turbulence for 15 years. After all, per the Federal Aviation Regulations, everything onboard an airplane must be secured or properly stowed for takeoff, landing, and often during flight, except children under two years old.


The NTSB stated as much in its 2004 analysis: "Both laboratory testing and real-world accidents have proven that under high load force events when restraint is most important, arm strength is not sufficient to protect even a small child." That's because commercial aircraft are designed to withstand tremendous g-forces, but humans are not. And therefore a 25-pound baby could easily weigh three or four times that amount when you're struggling to hold onto it during an emergency, let alone dealing with impact, smoke or fire. You wouldn't climb the side of a sheer mountain with your baby in one arm and a pick ax in the other, yet the G-forces in that situation are many times less than in a pressurized airplane moving at .82 mach, or four-fifths the speed of sound. In addition, a baby strapped inside your own seat belt can easily be crushed by your weight during an emergency.
Holy crap, eh!??!! Honestly, had I read that article prior to birthing my son, he would have NEVER flown in my lap. EVER.

I agree with Mr. McGee (author of the above USA Today article) when he writes,

"But if the FAA or the airlines won't say it, you need to say it yourself: If a trip is too expensive for a child's seat, then that's a trip that shouldn't be taken."
I realize my position is harsh, but walking around a crash site looking for a child... that's a risk I'm unwilling to take.

It does NOT get better at your destination if you have a lap child.

Think about what your luggage looks like on "the other side." Now think about the fact that your car seat is NOT designed to take that type of beating. Not only that, but keep in mind that once your car seat has been in an accident, you are supposed to replace it. You have no idea how rough (or not rough) the baggage handlers were with your car seat, and there is no guarantee that it will arrive in functioning order at your destination.

So you'll leave it at home and rent one, right?

Um, my advice. Please don't. Delicious Baby documented extensively in December 2007 significant problems when trying to rent a car seat.  The company said they fixed the problem, but seven months later, it was just as bad!   Chanel 10 news in San Diego picked up the story early, and their story points out that their sister station in Seattle found the same results there, which leads me to believe the situation is not isolate and is dangerous throughout the country and throughout multiple car rental agencies!

Bottom line-- take your car seat with you, and use it on the airplane. 

If you are thinking, "How will I carry a car seat, carry on luggage, a screaming toddler and a stroller through the airport?" I have an answer. A "must have" in my travel gear-- Go Go Kidz. I wrote about it here.

You're child is worth it. EVERY child is worth it!

I'd say I'm sorry for the lecture, but I'm not. Sometimes we need to hear what we don't want to hear. This is one of those times!


Del said...

How about something to tie the child to you. Like the thing you use to let A ride on your back? You know what I mean.

I would think that would help somewhat?! Or even making something with straps - like a dog car seat belt, but for your child on an airplane.

Good idea Del. You should market it.

Maria said...

Del-- There is a restraint that was approved last year (IIRC) by the FAA.

That being said, it does not fix the car seat at the destination problem.

Also, my former f/a friend says there is a "loop device" that allows you to attach your child to your seat belt, but not be buckled in with you. However, they are not allowed on US flights AND instead of being a projectile object, your child becomes a sling shot. That doesn't sound much better to me.

Anonymous said...

If you can't afford to buy a seat for the child then perhaps it's not a trip that should be taken?


Del said...

Man, there goes my good idea.

I wonder if your car seat is ruined whether you can get a new one like you can with ruined luggage? (I have done that twice.) Hmm.

That's another thing to invent - something to place over the car seat to protect it yet being easy to use and light weight. (Mind you, I have no idea how to deal with car seats because I don't have kids...). I'm feeling creative!

Bethany said...

Parker has flown as a lap baby 3 times now. Everytime I read what the FAA says and then I think...would he stay in his car seat? No. so he might be out of his seat in he event of a crash. It s tough flying with kids, it make me reconsider travel. I think airlines should reduces that rate for childrens seats..I think they are lower Europe?

Rebecca said...

Wow. I hadn't ever thought about it that way. I rarely fly, but the last time I did, it was with Frankie as an infant. He was my lap baby. I never even thought about the car seat. My assumption was that he was SUPPOSED to sit on my lap! This was an educational post, Maria. Thank you!

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