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Kids Soon May Need Own Seats on Planes

FAA intends to require safety seats, too

MONDAY, Nov. 5, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- Wave bye-bye to holding junior in your lap the next time you travel by plane.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is drafting a rule mandating that kids under age 2 have their own seat while flying. The children will have to be placed in safety seats as well, the agency says.

"We agree, everyone in aviation agrees, everyone in health-related organizations agree, that the best place for a child on a plane is not in the parent's lap but in a car safety seat," says FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette.

That pleases the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which just last week published a policy statement on the topic in its journal Pediatrics.

Dr. Phyllis Agran, a pediatrics professor at the University of California, Irvine, who helped draft the AAP policy statement, says many groups and public agencies "should take credit for tirelessly working toward this mandate."

"I applaud the FAA for drafting recommendations mandating equal protection for children less than 2 when traveling on a plane," says Agran.

Duquette says the rule being drafted by the FAA probably will require use of a rear-facing car safety seat, secured by an aircraft seat belt, for children under 2 who weigh less than 20 pounds. Children who weigh 20 to 40 pounds will be required to use forward-facing car safety seats.

Earlier attempts to mandate car safety seats in airplanes ran into opposition, Duquette says.

"People said that if we were to mandate such a rule, the cost would be too prohibitive for some parents, or that such a rule would divert parents to less safe modes of transportation, such as automobiles, to avoid paying for the extra seat," she says. "We encouraged the airlines to make it more affordable, and since that time, most major airlines offer a discount of up to 50 percent if you buy a ticket for your infant."

Dr. Marilyn Bull, a developmental pediatrician at Indiana University School of Medicine and chairwoman of the committee of pediatricians that approved the group's new policy statement, says infants are the "only occupants or items on an airline that are not required to be restrained or put away."

"Even coffeepots have to be put away," Bull says. "The greatest non-fatal, crash-unrelated injuries are related to turbulence, and parents cannot adequately provide restraint for an arm-held infant or young child."

Infants can become flying missiles during turbulence, and turbulence is the leading cause of nonfatal injuries to aircraft passengers and flight attendants, she says.

The FAA hopes to publish a draft of their rule changes by the end of the year, Duquette says. At that point, anyone interested in child safety issues will be encouraged to comment, she says.

What To Do: To learn more about traveling with an infant, visit the Web sites of the FAA or the AAP.

SOURCES: Interviews with Alison Duquette, spokeswoman, FAA, Washington, D.C.; Marilyn Bull, M.D., developmental pediatrician, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis; Phyllis Agran, M.D., M.P.H., professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, Calif.; November 2001 Pediatrics
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