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Updated with new findings 10.21.21
Whether you live in a big city or are traveling with kids on vacation, you may consider using a ride share service to get you from one place to another. There are a few things parents should know about ride sharing with kids.
A national survey of parents was published in Academic Pediatric and revealed lack of proper car seat usage among many parents. Half of the parents reported using the recommend child restraint when using a ride share. For the other half, 40% said they used just the seat belt and 10% had their child on their lap or unrestrained. Meanwhile, crashes still occur in ride share vehicles. It’s safest to use a proper child restraint. But what is legally required when ride sharing with kids?
First of all, what’s legal?
In most states, taxis are exempt from car seat laws, meaning you can legally ride in a taxi with your 2 year old without a car seat. We don’t recommend this.
However, it has been and remains less clear whether these exemptions also apply to ride-share vehicles.
Based on previous conversations with taxi regulation authorities, we were told ride share services, like Uber or Lyft, in most states were considered personal cars and would fall under car seat law requirements. However, troopers from Colorado State Patrol enlightened us during a recent conversation.
They informed us there is no law in Colorado which clearly states if ride shares are considered “for hire” vehicles or not. Until there is such a law or a court case that determines a precedent, Colorado State Patrol treats ride shares as a “for hire” vehicle. This means ride share vehicles, like taxis, are exempt from car seat laws in Colorado.
A new study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and Texas A&M Transportation Institute indicates only one state, Georgia, distinguishes between ride-sharing and other for-hire vehicles in its legislation. For-hire vehicles are exempt, but ride-share drivers in Georgia are required to provide car seats if needed.
So legally in Georgia you have to have a car seat for your child to ride in a ride-share vehicle. Which of course, for safety reasons, you want to anyway. Right? Ya, we thought so.
See the map below for how each state views ride-share vehicles.
Remember while state laws may vary on whether or not a car seat is legally required, the laws of physics don’t budge. A crash is a crash is a crash. Taxis and ride share cars crash just like any other car. They do not have a bubble of protection around them just because they are “for hire”.
Parents should always use an appropriate car seat for their child.
We know that’s not necessarily convenient especially when you are say… sightseeing around New York City. (May I suggest you familiarize yourself with the MTA.)
Convenience and safety
Let’s look at different stages of car seat and get some tips for more conveniently ride sharing with kids.
Rear-facing: Now if your child is still in an infant carrier, this is easier. You likely have a stroller in which the infant carrier sits for walking from place to place. You can easily install the infant carrier without the base in the ride share car. (Instructions should be in the manual.) You may also consider using a Doona Infant Car Seat as it has a stroller built in to the infant carrier. So cool!
If your child is out of an infant carrier, you are kind of out of luck. There isn’t much to do but bring along a rear-facing car seat and carry it with you. You can choose to purchase a lightweight convertible car seat option. This is what we did when our kids were little and we were traveling.
Best practice recommends that you should keep your child rear-facing until age two. Some states legally require rear-facing until age two now also. Others haven’t updated their laws yet and require rear-facing up to age one. (We still recommend longer rear facing and we understand a parent has to do what a parent has to do.)
Forward-facing: In addition to a lightweight convertible car seat options, there is the Immi Go. This is the forward-facing car seat many Uber Family drivers in New York City have in the car for ride sharing with kids. The Immi Go is only 10 pounds and portable. It even comes with a carrying case.
(Just so you know for an extra fee Uber has Uber Family/Uber Car Seat options in New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Orlando. Lyft has a car seat option in New York City.)
For older forward-facing children, at least 3 years old, another super lightweight option is the RideSafer Travel Vest. The RideSafer is a wearable legal child restraint that you can pack in a backpack or day bag.
Belt-positioning, commonly called booster stage: Again the RideSafer is a great choice because it will work in any car.
The miFold is an OK option. It ranks as OK because you can’t get a good seat belt fit in every car. Since you can’t select the type of you car get when ride sharing with kids, you may end up in a car that the miFold just doesn’t work well in. That’s a bummer. The nice thing is it’s only slightly bigger than a clutch wallet.
What about ride sharing
with kids for kids?
Doesn’t it sound like a dream to not have to drive your kids to all their activities?
With three kids, I know it can be quite hectic. Who needs to be where and what time and how do I get that one across town ten minutes after I drop this one off?
With our company name we get calls for it all the time. (Sorry, it’s not a service we offer.)
Uber and Lyft both have explicit rules about not allowing children under the age of 18 in their vehicles without a guardian present.
Like ride sharing with kids but better! There are specific services offering ride sharing for kids in many places.
HopSkipDrive will chauffeur kids to after-school activities when parents cannot. More than just “Uber for Kids”, HopSkipDrive has a certification process for “CareDrivers” which involves 15 requirements like five years of childcare experience and clearance through TrustLine among others. The drivers will sign kids in and out or walk them to the door and make sure a friend’s parent is home. Plus parents can track their child’s ride in the app.
HopSkipDrive is available in the San Francisco, Los Angeles/Orange County, San Jose and Denver areas.
Kango is a California based service for driving children and babysitting. Their “drivers and sitters are local babysitters, moms, and teachers with 3-20 years of childcare experience, who have passed our comprehensive screening process.”
Kango is available in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.
Other companies we found online include Kid Car (New York), Bubbl (Dallas), GoKart (near Raleigh, North Carolina), Kid’s Kruiser (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Sheprd (Newton, Massachusetts), Zem Car (Boston), and Zum (San Francisco). Plus, there are carpool services like GoKid to connect parents together for carpooling to activities.
If there isn’t a service in your area, just wait, it’s a growing trend! Or start your own local service.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
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