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An end to lap travel on airplanes?

All children need their own seats on airplanes -- and children under the age of two or weighing less than 40 pounds, should be securely fastened in child restraint seats on planes, according to new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Turbulence leading cause of injury
Currently, adults are not required to purchase separate seats for children under age two, and can instead place young children on their laps during air travel. The Federal Aviation Administration supports the use of safety seats, but does not currently mandate their use. Children weighing more than 40 pounds should be secured in their own seat with an aircraft seat belt, according to the new AAP policy statement. Seat belts and child safety restraints are necessary to protect children from the effects of turbulence, which is the leading cause of nonfatal injury to aircraft passengers. Other AAP recommendations include:

  • Pursuing technological improvements for child restraint systems on aircraft.
  • Educating airline personnel on the importance of, and the requirements for, age-appropriate restraint use on aircraft.
  • Making "loaner" child safety seats available to families traveling on aircraft.
  • Offering discounted fares for restrained children.

As in motor vehicles, children younger than age one and weighing less than 20 pounds should be placed in a rear-facing, properly secured child safety seat on an airplane. Children older than one year, weighing between 20 and 40 pounds, should be securely fastened in a forward-facing seat. Parents should select child safety seats that are labeled for use on aircraft. The policy also recommends that pediatricians convey the importance of proper child restraint for children traveling on airplanes, including information on appropriate child safety seats. You may contact the FAA (800) FAA-SURE, or www.faa.gov for more information on safe air travel for children.

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