Safety experts are calling for all children to be properly restrained on flights.
Researchers at The Cranfield Impact Centre Ltd. are looking at ways to increase flight safety for passengers travelling with small children. They estimate that an average of 5.6 million children under the age of two fly world-wide each year. *
Roger Hardy, Director of the Cranfield Impact Centre believes, "It is time to get children off laps. End of story." A topic discussed at a recent seminar in Washington USA, which focused on 'Child Restraint Use in Aircraft' gave experts the chance to put across their views on this crucial issue.
At present many airlines allow small children to fly seated on an adult's lap either restrained with a supplementary belt, that attaches to the adult belt, or totally unrestrained. Neither mode of travel is optimum. Today many of the worlds leading safety experts are calling for children to receive the same level of protection as adults. The best way of achieving this is to place them in a child safety seat.
It is well documented that children held on the mother's lap are more vulnerable than those secured in a seat of their own. In the event of a crash the child on the lap is pushed towards the seat in front and is then crushed by the adult behind. The child is hurled like a missile. As explained by Roger Hardy, "The adult tends to push the lap child's head into the forward seat."
In 1994 a US Airways DC-9 crash-landed at Charlotte, North Carolina. A mother properly belted in her seat received only slight injuries but her unrestrained 9-month-old baby received massive fatal head injuries. In a similar incident in 1999, an American Airlines MD-80 crashed in Arkansas. A two-year-old was seated in a child restraint and only received minor injuries.
Jane Garvey, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), declares, "The heart and soul of our mission at the FAA is safety, for young and old alike. We are committed to mandating child restraint systems in aircraft to provide equal protection for adults and children."
There are alternatives to carrying children on laps and many airlines already insist that children are restrained during a flight in an appropriate safety seat. As this conference has highlighted, the issue still needs a great deal more research and enforcement before children will be able to fly with the same level of safety as adults.
Last year, as part of a consortium, the Impact Centre completed a programme of research for the European Commission that formulated a draft regulation for approving child restraint devices used in aircraft. An incentive programme to encourage restraint manufacturers to have their devices approved for both car and aircraft use, was also suggested.
* Figures taken from the 'IMPCHRESS' Study conducted by Cranfield Impact Centre Ltd in conjunction with Seatrac (Europe)Ltd. and H R F Duffell and The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).