Ride-Share Reality: Who's responsible for children’s car seats?
Ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber are becoming increasingly popular for parents throughout the Hudson Valley.
A recent national study found more than a third of American moms and dads use ride-sharing apps with their children.
However, both parents and drivers are having a tricky time navigating the car seat laws. There is mounting confusion over whether or not drivers should accept rides from parents who don't bring along car seats for children under the age of four.
Afra Bangash left a corporate job to start his own business several years ago and became an Uber driver to help cover household expenses. But several months in, the West Haverstraw entrepreneur says he hit an unexpected road block. “Whenever a ride comes, my first thought is ‘I hope he or she doesn't have kid on board.’ Everybody is confused - the drivers and riders - no one is sure what their rights are.”
Our Turn to Tara investigative unit buckled down and did some digging to find out exactly who's responsible for car seat safety – parents, drivers or both.
We discovered taxi drivers in New York are exempt from the car-seat laws, but state statute makes no mention of ride-sharing apps. This means drivers like Bangash are technically on the hook. "I can see this legal battle waiting to happen. Some child gets hurt, God forbid, I’ll be in legal battle. All I was trying to do make $8 an hour, now a kid is hurt," says Bangash.
It’s clear not all drivers are following the law. To get a snapshot of the problem, News 12 recently ordered 10 rides with Uber and brought along a young child but no car seat.
Surprisingly, seven of those 10 drivers agreed to the ride.
News 12 then asked the two biggest ride-share companies to respond.
Uber got back to News 12 first, threatening to yank access for all drivers and riders who violate the law. A company spokesman said, “Drivers who find themselves in a situation where a car seat is required, but not present, should cancel the trip and report the incident to Uber.” They made sure to mention the canceled trip would not impact their driver rating.
Lyft’s response was similar. “Passengers should plan to provide their own car seats, and drivers have our support in declining rides if a passenger does not have the required car seat.”
Bangash, however, remains critical of both companies. “I haven't seen solid steps taken by them, raising awareness, so we are stuck in limbo between law, passenger customer service, and Uber policy.”
So for now, parents, your safest bet is to pack your own car seat.