(12/20/10) - Some grandmothers live a bit farther than over the river and through the woods. For those families who must travel by airplane to visit friends and family this holiday season, parents should remember that car seats are an important safety device both on the ground and in the air. For families with young children, car seats are an essential item to pack when traveling by plane.
"A child who rides in a car seat on the ground should ride in that car seat on a plane without question" says Erin Faile, coordinator of Safe Kids Florence. "Air turbulence can be dangerous and can suddenly appear without warning. Infants and toddlers on airplanes are safer and more comfortable in a car seat."
Safe Kids Florence and the Federal Aviation Administration strongly recommend using a car seat in an aircraft whenever possible. As in cars, babies under a year old and 20 pounds or to the highest weight of the harness are best restrained in a rear-facing car seat on the plane, and a forward-facing car seat can protect toddlers up to the maximum harness weight of 40 or more pounds. Call your airline to determine their car seat policy and check that your 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, and your child will be more comfortable and better off in their own familiar car seat" says Faile. "Car rental companies might not have clean and reliable car seats available and checking your child's seat as baggage could result in damage."
Additional air travel safety tips for parents:
• The FAA advises travelers with small children to reserve a window seat for the car seat. Car seats are not allowed in aisle seats or exit rows as they could block emergency escape routes.
• Whenever possible, buy a child his or her own seat to ensure an approved car seat can be used. Parents cannot rely on there being empty seats onboard an aircraft, especially during summer travel season, and holding a child on an adult's lap is not the safest option.
• Children who have outgrown car seats with a harness at 40 or more pounds 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 as they require shoulder belts, while airplane seats have lap belts only.
• Adult air travelers should buckle up, too. Children learn safety behavior by watching parents and other adults.
For more information about aircraft child passenger safety, visit the "Flying With Children" page at www.faa.gov/passengers. For information about car seats and child passenger safety in general, visit www.safekids.org.
In partnership with General Motors since 1997, Safe Kids Buckle Up, the child passenger safety program of Safe Kids USA, has inspected 1.2 million car seats; held approximately 60,500 car seat checkup events around the country; donated more than 426,000 car seats to families in need and educated more than 20 million parents and caregivers.
Safe Kids Florence works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. Its members include Florence Country Sheriff's Department, City of Florence Police Department, South Carolina Highway Patrol, and the City of Florence Fire Department. Safe Kids Florence is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Florence was founded in 1995 and is led by McLeod Health and funded in part by the McLeod Health Foundation.