Today, when parents drive with youngsters in the car they don't think twice about buckling them into their car seats. They don't take "no" for an answer and the kids rarely even protest because it's just such a routine thing. Keeping kids safe when riding in an automobile has become second nature to modern American parents.
Considering the concern parents show for motor vehicle safety, you would think that hurtling through the air at 500 miles per hour in a plane with a child would provoke every parent to carry an airplane approved car seat. But if you look around airports these days, traveling families rarely carry car seats for their child's airplane seat. The reason is simple - an airplane car seat is the same piece of equipment as the automobile car seat. It's heavy, bulky, meant to sit solidly in the back seat of an automobile and never meant to be carried through today's airports. This is like using the same boots you hike with in summer to trek through a meadow covered with deep winter snow. That said, parents shouldn't be any less concerned about their child's safety in a plane going eight times faster than they regularly drive their cars.
A handful of conscientious parents do still lug car seats through crowded airports, but they face another obstacle once they board the plane - installing the seat. For starters, car seats are only allowed in window seats. If these bulky seats were anywhere else, they would block other passengers from getting in and out. Even the installation process is a headache because the child cannot be in the seat while this is being done. This turns installation in to a two person process, one to install the seat and another to watch the child. For parents who've gotten this far, they're often confronted with the reality that these car seats simply don't fit well, if at all, in these small airplane seats. To avoid the hassle, many parents just forego any type of child restraint and just buckle their children in with the traditional lap belt. This is nothing short of opting for convenience over safety. Even in rough turbulence a lap belt is insufficient protection for small children who lack the ability to brace themselves.
Several years ago the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recognized that fewer children were flying with airplane approved car seats and they addressed the situation head on. After extensive dynamic testing, the FAA certified the first ever child aviation restraint, certifying that it provided an equivalent level of safety to a car seat used on a plane.
Unlike a car seat, the Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES) is a light weight buckle and belt device that turns the airplane seat into something that resembles a flight attendant's airplane safety restraint. It is highly portable, easy to install, can be used in any size airplane seat, and in any airplane seat in the row. The best part is that it weighs only a pound and takes only a minute to install. The Child Aviation Restraint System works in conjunction with the regular airplane seat lap belt. Instead of being threaded through a slot beneath or behind a car seat, the lap belt goes across the child's lap. Once the shoulder strap portion of CARES is installed, the lap belt simply loops through the lower portion. The child remains comfortable, yet safely strapped in to a multipoint harness. Another advantage is the fact that the child sits in his own seat while the airplane child restraint is installed around him.
Perhaps the best thing about the FAA approved child aviation restraint is that it lets parents provide the safe seat they know their kids need and deserve, without breaking their backs and dreading the trek through airports with a car seat and dealing with a hassle ridden installation after boarding. Moms can actually travel alone with two youngsters seating each on either side of her. Parents are encouraged by the portability of CARES and the ease of installation, allowing them to have a stress free and safe flight with their children.