Car Seats in Other Forms of Transportation

Below are answers to the most common questions asked about using car seats in other forms of transportation.  If you have a question that is not answered on the list below, contact a local program or call 1-800-672-4527 x2 during normal business hours.

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  • Should I bring my child’s car seat on the airplane?
    • Yes! The safest place for your child on an airplane is in a FAA approved car seat. You can use both rear- and forward-facing car seats on airplane seats and you should install the car seat in the appropriate direction based on the age and weight of your child.
    • Not all car seats with harnesses are approved for use on airplanes and no booster seats can be used on airplanes.  Look for the following statement in red on a sticker on your car seat to determine if your car seat is FAA approved.
    • “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”
    • There is one restraint system approved for use in airplanes only.  The CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System) harness can be used for children between 22 and 40 pounds. More information on the CARES harness can be found here.
    • Federal Aviation Administration’s Tips for Parents:
      • Make sure your car seat is approved for use on airplanes.
      • Measure the width of your car seat. It should fit in most airplane seats if it is no wider than 16 inches.
      • Ask your airline for a discounted fare. Buying a ticket for your child is the only way to guarantee that you will be able to use a car seat.
      • Reserve adjoining seats. A car seat should be placed in a window seat so it will not block the escape path in an emergency. Do not place a car seat in an exit row.
      • If you do not buy a ticket for your child, ask if your airline will allow you to use an empty seat. If your airline’s policy allows this, avoid the busiest days and times to increase the likelihood of finding an empty seat next to you.
      • Arrange for your airline to help you if you need help making a connecting flight. Carrying a car seat, a child, and luggage through a busy airport can be challenging.
      • Pack a bag of toys and snacks to keep your child occupied during the flight.
      • Always use a car seat when driving to and from the airport.
      • Wear your seat belt at all times
    • Multiple organizations have tips for parents traveling with young children:
      Federal Aviation Administration
      American Academy of Pediatrics
      National Transportation Safety Board
  • Can car seats be installed in school buses?
    • Maybe yes… Maybe no…
    • Research has shown that school buses – even those without seat belt – are safer than other types of vehicles for school age children. At the same time, pre-school age children in school buses are safest when transported in child restraints that are correctly installed in the school bus seats.
    • It is important to note, however, that the proper installation of child restraints requires that a school bus seat be equipped with seat belts, LATCH anchors, or some other means of installing the child restraint in the school bus seat.
    • There are restraints for children that can be used without seat belts being installed. Integrated child restraints and seat belts are built into the school bus seat and “cam-wrap” restraints can be installed using a strap that wraps around the back of the school bus seats. If cam-wrap restraints are used, the entire seat directly behind the child in the cam-wrap-mounted restraint must be unoccupied or be occupied by restrained occupants.
    • When pre-school age children are transported in a school bus, NHTSA recommends these guidelines be followed:
      • Each child should be transported in a Child Safety Restraint System (suitable for the child’s weight and age) that meets applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs).
      • Each child should be properly secured in the Child Safety Restraint System.
      • The Child Safety Restraint System should be properly secured to the school bus seat, using anchorages that meet FMVSSs.
    • Additional NHTSA recommendations and information can be found through NHTSA’s School Bus Fact Page.
    • For additional information about the transportation of preschool children on school buses, refer to “Special Needs Require Special Care: A Guide for the Transportation of Preschoolers and Children with Disabilities for North Carolina Public Schools – Transportation Policies, Guidelines, and Best Practices” produced by the North Carolina Exceptional Children Transportation Manual Steering Committee.
    • For additional information about school bus safety, refer to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Transportation Services School Bus Safety Web.
  • Do I need to use car seats when traveling by taxi?
    • Yes! Taxis are NOT exempt from the North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Law.  All laws and recommendations that apply for traveling in a personal vehicle also apply for traveling by taxi. Refer to CPS Law FAQ and Choosing Restraints.
  • Can car seats be installed in the back of a recreational vehicle (RV)?
    • In general, the only safe place to ride in an RV is in the driver and front passenger seats.  Passenger cars and trucks are required under federal regulations to have seat belts that meet federal safety standards.  The same requirements also apply to the driver and passenger seat in the front of RVs.  However, there are no similar requirements for the back of RVs.  So even if it looks like the RV has seat belts in the back, these belts are likely not designed to comply with the federal safety standards and thus will provide very little, if any, protection in a crash.  In addition, car seat manufacturers do not allow car seats to be installed on side facing seats.
    • While there may be some exceptions, only the driver and front seat passenger can be safely restrained in an RV. When traveling with children the best option is for all other passengers to ride properly restrained in another vehicle.  Or, consider getting a 5th wheel trailer that can be towed with all passengers riding in the towing vehicle.


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