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Using Car Seats On Airplanes

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Infants and toddlers on airplanes are safest in a car seat with a harness in case of turbulence. “A child who rides in a car seat on the ground should ride in that car seat on a plane,” said Cherie Sage, State Director for Safe Kids Kansas. “Air turbulence can be dangerous and can appear suddenly without warning.”

Not all car seats can fit on standard airplane seats, which are typically about 16 inches wide, but Safe Kids Kansas and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommend using a car seat if it fits. As in cars, babies under one 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. Make sure your child’s car seat is labeled “certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”

Booster seats cannot be used on airplanes, because they require shoulder belts and airplane seats have only lap belts. 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.

“You need your child’s car seat to travel to and from the airport anyway,” said Sage. “Car rental companies might not have reliable car seats available. Your kids are better off in their own car seats. Children who ride in car seats on the ground are often more comfortable and better behaved when using one on a plane.”

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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. Most airlines offer a significant discount for children under 2 when a seat is purchased.

Adult air travelers should stay buckled up on the plane, too. ““You’re a role model,” said Sage. “Children learn safety behavior by watching parents and caregivers.” Safe Kids Worldwide released a study in 2005 showing a strong correlation between adult safety habits and children’s safety behavior.

At Your Destination: Be Wary of Hotel Cribs

Safe Kids Kansas also cautions travelers to take a close look at cribs provided by hotels. In several random surveys from 2001-2006, Safe Kids Worldwide found many hotel-issued cribs to be defective, damaged or even recalled from the market.

“If you can bring your own folding playpen, that’s better than relying on borrowed cribs,” said Sage. “If you must use a hotel’s crib, inspect it carefully for broken or missing parts and look up the model on www.recalls.gov to make sure it isn’t subject to any safety notices.”