Car Seats on School Field Trips

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Safety seat laws for school field trips and carpooling?

Aug 2009

So, I'm an elementary school teacher and we sometimes carpool to field trips. However, as the safety seat laws are getting stricter (I can't remember if it's up to 6 or 8 year old now, as long as they weigh enough), it's a huge problem. Nobody has four safety seats for the same size children!

How do other people deal with this? Whether it's a field trip or carpooling to school or taking your kids' soccer team or birthday party somewhere - how do you deal with these laws? overwhelmed

For school field-trips, the parents of kids who are still using booster seats should bring their child's safety seat to school that day. Drivers should not be expected to provide seats. And you must be sure there are enough drivers to have all the kids in the back seats, properly belted in. California law currently requires an appropriate child restraint until the child EITHER reaches age 6, OR reaches 60 pounds. However, many parents choose to use boosters considerably longer, since it is really much safer until the child is big/tall enough to be properly restrained by a shoulder belt. I know it's a pain, but safety comes first. R.K.

Back when Berkeley USD was still allowing parents to drive, one parent brought in a scale and weighed the kids on the cusp to find out which ones really did still need a seat and which ones didn't. The kids that did need one had to bring their own booster (parents dropped it off or gave it to other parent) or driver provided an extra. It takes a lot more cars to drive a bunch of kids in booster seats, as you know.

First step would be to educate yourself about what the law is, exactly. I think this statement is still current and I just got it off a CHP site. You may want to check online or call CHP to double-check. from the web site: It said: ''Children MUST be secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint (safety seat or booster seat) IN THE BACK SEAT OF A VEHICLE until they are at least 6 years old or weigh at least 60 pounds.''(emphasis provided by teh CHP) Note that the CHP says they need to be at least 6 years old OR at least 60 pounds. So my non professional opinion is that any 6 year old (regardless of wieght) or any kid 60 pound kid (regardless of age) doesn't legally need a car seat.

Keep in mind that parents of a petite 6 year old may still want them in a booster. Also keep in mind, that you probably can't require anything more stringent than these rules unless it is school policy.(I'm not sure a school can require it either). One solution.. save the trips until later in the year when more fo your students will be 6 years old. Anon Soccer Mom

We used to have parents drop off booster or car seats the morning of field trips, but getting them into the cars and having enough room for all of them could be a hassle. We also solicited the donation of boosters from parents of kids who had out grown them and just stored them at school.

When my son was in Kindergarten, he went on several field trips in which most of the kids took carseats. It was not terribly difficult; each parent dropped off a carseat with their kid (labeled -- even if just with the kid's name printed on a piece of masking tape). Each kid had the responsibility to find their own carseat (they could all read their names) and make sure it went with them into their car (many of them could carry their own carseats by then). After the field trip, all carseats were put in a single place (usually the same place where the carseat was placed when dropping off the kid), and the parent picking up the kid also picked up the carseat. Karen

It's simple, really: just go to Target and buy a few extra backless boosters for about $15 each. Stick them in the trunk, and then you're ready to pull them out whenever they're needed! I've never been able to figure out why so many families go through these complicated car-seat handoffs when it's so simple to just buy a few extra inexpensive ones and leave them in the trunk. Able to transport four kids at a moment's notice

Should I be concerned about lack of carseats on field trips?

I have a 3 year old who is ready for pre-school and have enrolled her at two places - Smiles Day School and Lakeshore Children's Center. I really like Lakeshore with the exception that they take many field trips but don't use car seats for the children. It is also further from my house. That alone could be the deciding factor not to go there, since I have two other children, each in a different place. Smiles is nice, but their outdoor play area at the church site is cement and not available to the children in the late afternoon when elementary school age children are also there. They also have a less open feeling in the center as far as choice of activities. My dilemma is whether I should be so concerned about the lack of car seats on field trips. The director says that by law they are not required to put everyone in car seats because it is like a school bus. Everyone has such good opinions about Lakeshore otherwise, and I agree that the atmosphere and approach to pre-school there is terrific, more in line with what I want for my daughter. Can anyone give me some feedback about these issues?

I have a very hard time believing that by law the school is not required to put children under 4 years oldand under 40 lbs in a car seat. That is the law, no exceptions, as far as I know, regardless of what the vehicle looks like. In any event, you might want to consider whether want your child riding around in a vehicle while not safely and securely strapped in, regardless of what the law is. Is it worth the risk? Raissa

I responded directly to the parent who posted the original question about Lakeshore and its transportation arrangements for field trips, but because I'm a very happy parent of a very happy -- and safe -- Lakeshore student, and because a responding list poster seemed alarmed, I'd like to share what I know -- from my field trip experience and observation, not a legal perspective.

First, the LCC vans are not minivans; a special permit or license is required to drive them and they carry, I believe, 12 passengers. The vans have seatbelts, and the children must use them. Parents who want their child to ride on the school van in his or her own carseat only have to leave the carseat at the school the morning of the trip and let the teacher know it's there. Few parents do, for whatever reason. On the field trips, there are enough adults in the van to keep an eye on the children, to insist that they stay belted and safe. Also, sometimes a parent will drive from the school to the trip destination in her/his own car, and of course a child whose parent left a carseat can ride along.

Second, unless I'm mistaken, most of the big yellow school buses ridden by millions of children each day are not even equipped with seat belts. And surely there are children on those buses, who are driven to and from the school bus stop in personal cars, in a carseat they are still legally required to use because they are under 40 pounds. This is apparently legal. Lorraine