Moderator’s Note: This post was authored by Aditya Belwadi, PhD, former Research Scientist II for biomechanics research at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention and Principal Investigator for many projects funded through the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS). As of December 2019, Dr. Belwadi has left CHOP to pursue his career elsewhere.
The way we travel on roadways as drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and even pedestrians is rapidly changing. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than for those living in urban environments. Some families in these areas are shifting mobility by more frequently utilizing public transportation and ride hailing/sharing services, such as Uber or Lyft.
Unfortunately, this can pose challenges for optimal child passenger safety. Some families with children who are car seat age are using ride sharing services without a car seat, going against both best practice recommendations and state laws.
There is a need to ensure that either child seats are available in the ride sharing vehicles or there are portable options for parents to carry. This has spurred some product development, with the advent of products such as portable/foldable booster seats. There has also been some limited action from Uber, such as the development of UberFAMILY, where a car seat can be provided by the Uber driver in a handful of US cities, or Uber drivers in Arizona receiving an automatic reminder of the state’s child seat laws. While this is a definitely a step in the right direction, there is more that needs to be done.
The child passenger safety research community should consider the following questions to optimally protect children safe in taxis or ride-sharing services:
- How do we make it easier for families to follow optimal child passenger safety practices in taxis or ride-sharing vehicles? For instance, UberFAMILY is more expensive than a standard Uber ride—does it make it cost-prohibitive for parents to travel safely with their children? For taxis, are there rules around allowing time for installation?
- If parents have to travel, do they rely on the ride-sharing company to provide the right seat? Who is responsible for the installation of the seat?
- Who is primarily responsible for safety concerns in these types of vehicles? Is it the parent, the taxi service, Uber, or the driver?
- What kind of education do these parties need when it comes to best practice child passenger safety recommendations and state laws?
- Acknowledging the challenges associated with traveling with children in a ride-sharing vehicle or taxi, how are parents changing their behaviors based on this? Are they choosing not to travel at all, travel solo without their children, or bringing their children but allowing them to ride without the proper child restraint?
- Can we look at other models, such as how rental car services approach child restraints in their rented vehicles?
At CIRP@CHOP, we are currently conducting research that addresses some of these questions, with an aim of understanding how children and families can safely utilize ride hailing/sharing services.
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