- Parents riding with small children in a ride-share vehicle often will not bring a safety seat or request one from the driver, according to a new study from researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). Part of that has to do with confusion over safety seat requirements in cities and states.
- A focus group of parents in Texas found that more than a third used ride-share services with their children, and up to half did not provide safety seats. In a separate focus group, three quarters of drivers reported having given rides to young children, and only half said a car seat was used.
- A review of state laws found that 34 states exempt taxis and for-hire vehicles from safety seat requirements, but only one, Georgia, distinguishes its rules for car-sharing vehicles (drivers there are required to provide car seats).
In the researchers’ focus groups, parents said that they were often uncertain about the need for safety seats, or whether they could ask for one. To help clear up that confusion, VTTI and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute created a website called Kids Ride Safe that lays out the requirements in every state. However, that guidance also serves to underscore the uncertainty around ride-sharing vehicles, since many states do not clarify if Uber and Lyft drivers need to provide or install safety seats, or even if such vehicles are subject to safety seat requirements.
"These findings suggest that parents would like to be able to transport their children more safely when using ride-share vehicles, but there is a real need for user-friendly information about rules, regulations, and resources surrounding travel with children," said Justin Owens, a research scientist at VTTI and a lead author, in a statement.
Regardless of state rules, both Uber and Lyft have limited options for parents traveling with children. Uber Car Seat provides uberX users the ability to select a vehicle equipped with a car seat — at a $10 cost — while Lyft "car seat mode" provides a safety seat, but only in New York City.
The safety seat issue is another example of the confusing patchwork of laws that surrounds ride-sharing services since they burst on the scene a decade ago. Cities and states are still exploring how to regulate the industry, especially around labor laws and fair pay for drivers, but safety requirements remain an open question as well. Ride-sharing companies have also found themselves in the spotlight around accessibility for people with disabilities, with cities exploring how to apply the same accessibility laws that apply to taxi and for-hire services to the upstarts.