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US DOT Warns Parents Against Holding Children on Laps during Airplane Flights

Posted on December 13, 2010

During the busy holiday season, parents sometimes forget to put safety first and nowhere is that more true than on an airplane. Consumer Reports recently reminded parents that the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Raymond LaHood, is warning parents that the safest place for a child to sit on an airplane is in their own seat with a safety seat or a seat belt – not on the parent’;s lap. Children sitting on an adult’;s lap face particular dangers during air turbulence. They can become a projectile during turbulence, despite a parent’;s best efforts to hold onto them. That is why all books, laptops, and purses must be secured during takeoff and landing.

However, the law allows children under the age of 2 to sit on a parent’;s lap. This appears to be primarily a financial decision since the adult does not have to purchase another airline ticket. However, the federal government and airlines are reconsidering that policy because the injuries that can result because an infant was sitting on a parent’;s lap are devastating and entirely preventable.

This month the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) updated the “Child Safety on Airplanes” section of its website to include specific advice on choosing and using proper child safety restraints. Just last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hosted a forum on child passenger safety in the air and in automobiles. Consumers Union advocates mandatory child restraint systems for children under the age of 2 on commercial aircraft.

Parents can purchase an airline ticket for children younger than age 2 and use a certified child restraint system approved for airline use. The restraint system should be appropriate for the child’;s size. And the child must be restrained during takeoff, landing, when the seat belt sign is illuminated, and preferably during the entire flight as turbulence is unpredictable.