In a recent conversation with a good friend, she excitedly told me (incorrectly) that New York City is the only place in the world where you can take a taxi with your baby without being legally required to have a car seat. Fortunately I didn’t have to get into the specifics of Mexico, or Southeast Asia, or elsewhere “in the world” where families who could actually afford a car seat are few and far between before she corrected herself (still incorrectly) and said, “in the United States.” She’d apparently read this bit of trivia in a travel article, and I can only assume the writer is from New York City, not San Francisco, Las Vegas, Paris, London, Tokyo, or one of the many other places in the world where this is common practice for city dwellers, and legally so.
It’s a topic I’m asked about frequently, and was sure to include in Travels with Baby. While I’m hesitant to tell anyone “it’s okay” to jump into unfamiliar cars with their babies on their laps, it is in fact considered “legal” in most cities, as well as states and countries around the world–though whether or not it is safe is another matter.
The basic scoop is this: Drivers of for-hire vehicles (taxis, shuttles, limos) are subject to different laws than are passengers of privately-owned passenger vehicles. In most cases, these drivers are not required to provide car seats or “special equipment” for passengers. In turn, the passengers hiring the car are not required to have their child in a car seat because one does not exist in the hired vehicle. Having taken some hair-raising taxi rides right here at home and around the world, however, I don’t encourage anyone to jump into taxis driven by complete strangers without any type of restraint for their babies and small children.
If you’re looking for a car seat that’s ideal for travel, you can see some suggestions here. Even when car seats are impractical or impossible to take along (a day of sightseeing, only one round-trip from the airport or train station) there are other alternatives that are far safer than traveling with no car seat at all. I have a list of some helpful suggestions for car seat alternatives for travelers online.
Shelly Rivoli, author of Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children