Date: May 1, 2009
With so many families traveling during the spring and summer — from short day trips to weekend getaways or extended vacations —the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), U.S. Transportation Security Administration, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer the following tips for safe family travel on the road or in the air.
Traveling by car
Whether you’re preparing for a long car trip or driving to destinations around the Triangle, be sure your kids are safe when on the road.
* Always use a car safety seat for infants and young children. A rear-facing car seat should be used until your child is 1 year old and weighs at least 20 pounds. Once your child is at least 1 and at least 20 pounds, he can ride in a forward-facing car seat, but it is better to keep him rear facing until he reaches the highest weight and/or height allowed by his car seat.
* Never place a child in a rear-facing car safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an airbag.
* A child who has outgrown her car safety seat with a harness should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly, usually when the child is about 4-feet, 9-inches tall and is 8 to 12 years old.
A child is too big for her forward-facing car safety seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for the seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
* All children under age 13 should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.
* Set a good example by always wearing a seat belt. And don’t chat on your cell phone while driving.
* Never leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute.
* On long car trips, plan to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours.
Traveling by airplane
Here’s what you need to know to keep your children safe and comfortable in the air.
* Children are best protected on an airplane when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for their age, weight and height. A child can use the aircraft seat belt when she weighs 40 pounds.
You can also consider using a restraint made only for airplane use and approved by the FAA. Belt-positioning booster seats cannot be used on airplanes, but they can be checked as luggage so you have them for rental cars and taxis at your destination.
* Although the FAA allows children under age 2 to be held on an adult’s lap, the AAP recommends that families explore options to ensure that each child has his own seat. Discounted fares may be available. If you don’t purchase a ticket for a small child, try to select a flight that is likely to have empty seats.
* To decrease ear pain during descent, encourage your infant to nurse or suck on a bottle. Older children can try chewing gum (4 years of age or older) or blowing up balloons (8 years of age or older).
* Consult your pediatrician before flying with a newborn or infant who has chronic heart or lung problems or with upper or lower respiratory symptoms.
* Consult your pediatrician if a child will be flying within two weeks of an ear infection or ear surgery.
If your upcoming travels take you to another country, consider these additional health and safety suggestions.
* Make sure your child is up-to-date on immunizations and check with your doctor to see if others are needed.
* Conditions at hotels and other lodging facilities may not be as safe as those in the U.S. Carefully inspect for exposed wiring, pest-control poisons, paint chips, or inadequate stairway or balcony railings.
* Cribs or play yards provided by hotels may not meet all safety standards. If you have any doubt about the safety of these items, ask for a replacement or consider other options.
Whatever your family adventures may be, take proper precautions to help your young ones arrive and stay safe.
Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist specializing in health and parenting issues.
Know the Law for Young Car Passengers
In North Carolina, state law prescribes:
* Children ages 4 and younger who weigh less than 40 pounds must be in the rear seat unless the front passenger airbag is deactivated or the restraint is designed for use with airbags.
* Children who are 7 and younger and weigh less than 80 pounds must be in a child restraint as long as a seating position with a lap and shoulder belt is available to secure a booster seat.
* Placing the shoulder belt under a child’s arm or behind the back is dangerous and illegal in North Carolina.
What is allowed under state law should be considered minimum standards and is not necessarily what is recommended to provide the best protection.
– From North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Center, www.buckleupnc.org
Car Seat Installation Questions?
If you have questions about installing your car seat or booster seat, a certified Child Passenger Safety(CPS) technician can help. Find a list of child safety seat inspection stations by state or ZIP code on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at www.nhtsa.gov. (Search by state if the ZIP code search isn’t functioning properly.)
You can also search for stations with Spanish-speaking technicians, find car seat ratings based on ease of use, check for defects and recalls, and get additional vehicle-oriented safety tips.