I have to admit that I’m a little nervous about writing this post – I’m usually a little devil-may-care about what I put up here, but I think this could be a bit of a hot-button. Especially because it’s me talking about my screw-up and calling out my fellow NYC mothers on their own blind-eyes. I’d love to not have the screws put to me, but if they need to be, ok. Just remember I’m a delicate little flower, and my birthday is coming up and also I’m a nice person that can be stupid at times. So, this is the story -
I was walking down West 15th and 8th Avenue in NYC with 7-year-old Roan’s hand holding my right hand and 4-month-old Smith bouncing in a carrier. My left hand was gripping two pipe insulators I just picked up at a hardware store. Add to that: Roan’s book bag, lunch box as well as a diaper bag hanging off my shoulder. We’re alright, if just a bit awkward – but were making our way successfully towards the F train. Roan then spotted an available taxi coming our way and suggested we grab it. Before I could even say “yes”, my city-savvy child hailed it and honestly? I was 100% down for it. The occasional luxury of a taxi is something I can go for.
As we sailed down the West-Side Highway, I was thinking this idea was inspired. Roan loves looking at the city from a car, and I always feel a little starstruck taking in the beauty of where we live. We haven’t always lived here. We lived in Utah before – where everyone has at least two cars, big plots of land, pets, backyards, space mountains, cars – wait. CARS. C-A-R-S. I’m in a car. With two children. And no car seats.
It’s a dirty little secret in NYC. Nobody really talks about the reality that mothers hop into cabs all the time with their children. We don’t carry car seats around with us. They’re not pre-installed in the cabs. It’s what we do. At least, that’s what I’ve seen. When I moved here I don’t think I would have made this gaffe, but after living here for five years, owning no car and not really thinking about the logistics of riding in cars very often – it’s just become something far away from the seven bazillion other things I perseverate about.
Before anyone accuses me of not loving my children, of being a bad mom, or having the worst instincts ever for raising children, let me save you some time. I’ve read the comments on other posts tackling this topic (although I may be the first idiot to actually say, “Eh, guess what I did?” The other posts I’ve found are more of a witch-hunt for mum’s like me. And the comments reflect that. So you know, if it makes you feel better have at it and tell me I suck. But I’ve already sort of sussed that out.)
Is it really the huge mistake we all think it is? Our knee-jerk reaction is to feel like car seats are 100% necessary all the time. But there is research out there that has shown a death rate of 11.9% for children travelling in car seats involved in accidents, compared to a death rate of 11.1% for children simply wearing seat belts. That’s not a huge difference. The research is by no means conclusive, there are variables and information can always be skewed to show any perspective, no?
I just wonder if we’re being sold a feel-good idea that doesn’t have all that much merit. The data on car seats is all over the place. And it’s all relatively new. When I was a child, my parents put their five children in the back of a pick-up truck with a camper shell and drove three days across the country every single summer. I don’t know what it would have looked like if there would have been an accident. Probably not good. But the point is, this is a new concept – and probably not as definitive as we all want to believe.
Where do you land?
Are car seats a mandatory item before you hop in a car with your kid? Have you ever had to forego the car seat - especially my NYC or other urban moms? How do you reconcile getting in with your kids and no car seats?
One interesting thing – via nyc.gov - taxi cabs are exempt from car seat laws:
Drivers of yellow medallion taxicabs and for-hire vehicles and their passengers, are exempt from laws regarding car seats and seatbelts. Keep in mind, the TLC encourages everyone in the vehicle to buckle their seatbelts while riding in a cab. There are no Taxi and Limousine Commission rules regarding this, as it is a State exemption. Passengers with children are encouraged to bring their own car seats, which the drivers must allow passengers to install.
*NOTE – Children under the age of seven are permitted to sit on an adult’s lap.
For the record – I had bad dreams for three nights about my choice, my judgement and what I’ll call my mistake. I’m still sold on the idea that we should always use car seats. They’re not perfect. But they’re probably better than nothing. I’m just not convinced that they are as safe as we’ve been told. What do you think?