With the exponential growth of rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft over the past few years, child passenger safety has become a growing concern. As these services have been continuing to grow in popularity, families have run into issues when it comes to safely utilizing these more popular transportation options.
“The regulations are mixed across the country, and they are confusing, and sometimes it is hard to find good information about the regulations where you are going,” said Justin Owens, the principal investigator and a research scientist at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).
This fact makes the act of traveling with young children an even more challenging experience for parents.
Researchers at the VTTI in collaboration with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and San Diego State University have published a new study concerning the usage of child safety seat and ridership in rideshare vehicles in hopes of increasing child safety seat usage among their users.
Child safety seat is a kind of seat designed to protect children from getting injured from vehicle collisions.
In the study, child restraint laws from across the United States were analyzed to discover what was required of parents transporting children in rideshare vehicles. They discovered that Virginia, along with 33 other states, do not require for-hire vehicles and taxis to follow the child restraint laws of their respective states. Furthermore, it is oftentimes unclear whether these regulations, and the exemptions to them, apply to rideshare vehicles.
“Rideshares are thought of as an easier way to get a taxi, but the way it is written into law in almost all those states, rideshares do not share those exemptions,” Owens said.
The only state in the country that differentiates between rideshare and for-hire vehicles in its child restraint legislation is Georgia. While for-hire vehicles like taxis are exempt, rideshare services are required to provide proper accommodations for young passengers.
In addition to analyzing child restraint laws nationwide, researchers at TTI conducted focus groups with rideshare drivers and parents of young children. In addition to the focus groups, they administered an internet survey to parents across the nation. Through these methodologies, the scientists gauged the practices and attitudes toward necessary safety precautions while transporting children, as well as what hinders parents from using child safety seats while traveling in rideshare services.
The results of the focus groups and survey revealed that approximately half of the parents who utilized rideshare services did not provide their own proper safety seats. Likewise, only 50 percent of the rideshare drivers who participated in the focus groups that claimed to have driven young children said that they remembered a safety seat being used.
In general, a majority of parents wanted to adhere to the child restraint laws of their state but faced barriers such as an absence of appropriate child safety seats and ambiguity surrounding safety regulations. “One of the most consistent findings that we found was just how much confusion there is about the rules and regulations,” Owens said.
The researchers behind this study also created a website, kidsridesafe.org, that coincides with the data collected.
“The purpose of the website is to mainly give state-by-state information with links to rules and regulations to both parents, caregivers and rideshare drivers as they are planning travel,” Owens said.