Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taxis and car seats?

I've come across an interesting tidbit recently. In planning for a trip to Boston, where we will not have a car in the city, I began wondering if it's kosher to take a 2-year-old in a taxi without a car seat. Despite being seasoned travelers and having a 2-year-old who's seen her fair share of the world already, I realized I didn't know the answer to this question.
Now, of course, I want my child to be the safest she can possibly be, but seriously, I am not lugging around a 20-pound car seat while we hit the tourist streets of Boston—that's just ridiculous.
So, I began to wonder what the rules really are. I mean, we all know that nowadays kids are required to be in car seats until they are practically headed off to college, but what about in taxis? What do all those New York City parents do? Taking cabs is just part of daily life in a major city like that. And I'm going to admit—we were in Barcelona, Spain, this summer and we did take a few cabs without a car seat, and luckily, we were all okay. I mean it's Europe, so who knows what their rules are! Alas...

The question at hand: Are you legally required to use a car seat in a taxi cab?
The answer: Like everything else in this world, there are multiple answers to this question and it was hard to get a straight answer. Indeed, in New York City, yellow medallion taxicabs and for-hire vehicles are exempt from laws regarding car seat usage and (GET THIS!) seat belt usage.
So, after much research, I am having a really hard time finding a straight answer. Each state has different laws, so it is recommended that you check the laws on the state you are concerned about. The Inventive Parent web site has links to each state's laws. But I do have to say, that even after reading that I was still confused about cabs. I decided to continue my research on Boston and DC (where I live), as a test case. Despite being first led to something that made it seem like I'd be sent to jail should I even consider taking my child in a car without a car seat, I finally ran across this on the DC Taxicab Commission Web site: "
What are the rules regarding the use of seatbelts and child safety seats in taxicabs?
Drivers of the taxicab and for-hire vehicles are exempt from the laws regarding seat belts and the vehicles are exempt from providing child safety seats. The passengers, however, are required to use seat belts. The DCTC, however, encourages everyone in the vehicle to buckle their seatbelts while riding in a cab and requires taxicab vehicles to post a decal to that effect. Passengers with children are encouraged to bring their own car seats, which the drivers must allow passengers to install.

Boston was a harder find, but I finally came across this little tidbit on the Massport web site: "Boston taxis are exempt from the requirement to have car seats for children." Now, I couldn't find this info on the taxicab commission site, but Massport is the Massachusetts State Port Authority and should be an "authority" on the matter. So I guess we'll take our chances. Who knows, maybe we won't even have to get in a cab, but it's better to be informed before you go.

Important tip to remember if you're not using a car seat: According to the Car Seat Lady (I didn't even know there was one!): "The younger and smaller the child, the less effective the safety belt will be in both preventing injury and ejection from the vehicle, because the safety belt was designed for a 50th percentile adult male. A child less than 1 year old and less than 20 pounds will likely receive no benefit if placed in a safety belt due to their small body size, large head, and inability to sit unsupported." Therefore, if a child is not riding in a car seat (which is, of course, the safest): "It is important to note that holding a child is the worst option of all as no one is strong enough to hold the child in the instant of a crash. In a crash, the child becomes much heavier than normal and will fly forward either into the divider screen or out the windshield. Therefore, should a toddler ever be in a vehicle without a car seat, this child may receive some benefit from wearing a safety belt due to their larger body size and ability to sit unsupported. If you must place your toddler in a seat belt, place him in a shoulder-and-lap belt (not just a lap belt – unless the shoulder belt is resting across the child's face). Pull the safety belt so it's very snug and so the lap portion of the belt is resting very low and very snug on the tops of the child's thighs. Never let the child place the shoulder belt behind their back or under their arm, since this is very dangerous and increases the chance of head, abdominal, and spinal cord injuries. Never use 1 seat belt for two people – i.e. don’t let your child sit on your lap and put the seat belt over both of you. One person, one seat belt. In a crash, everything will weigh its weight multiplied by the speed of a crash – if you are 100 pounds and are in a 30mph crash, you will weigh approximately 3000 pounds. If there's something between your body and the seat belt (like a child sitting on your lap) your body will crush the child."

So here's my final thought on the matter: Of course, it is always best to use a car seat for your child, we're not stupid or careless parents. BUT, if you have to go in a taxi and cannot bring your car seat: Check the laws for the place you are in, use seatbelts as recommended, and be smart. Basically, from what I've read, it seems like you may just have a difficult time even finding a cabbie willing to pick you up! Oh, and if you're planning ahead, like a taxi to the airport or something, you can call most companies and ask for them to bring a cab with a car seat installed. They should have them available and comply.

Next step: What about buses? Oy! It never ends!