Of Car Seats & Charter Buses
Photo by StarMama
Love the column… its my go-to place when I need any sort of advice!
Soooo… I have a dilemma.. My brother is getting married in about six weeks and my two kids are in the bridal party. My daughter will be 3-1/2 and my son 2… We have about a 45-minute drive to the reception from the church – and there is some talk about stopping at other locations to take pictures, etc. My dilemma is that what do I do about car seats? I don’t feel comfortable having them just sit on our laps or whatever. They are getting on a party bus and not a limo.. will these seats accommodate car seats? We have toyed with the idea of having someone follow in the car with the kids, but its not really practical and my brother and his fiance really want the kids with all of us… what to do??
The very first thing to do is call the bus rental company and talk to them about it. Do their buses come equipped with seat belts? Shoulder or lap? Have they had passengers use car seats before? Do they rent or provide car seats? (Many car rental companies do!) A little cursory Googling led me to a few random limo/charter/party bus rental companies that provided clear information about using your own car seat on board OR using one that they provide — even on buses. But some sites were alternately clear: no seat belts on their buses, no way to secure a car seat. Others simply said: call to discuss.
Honestly, I’d say this is a task your brother (or whoever arranged the bus rental) should have already handled for you. Even if you did plan to hold your children on your lap, the bus company might not have the proper liability coverage for a child that small and could potentially not allow you on board the day of the wedding. Dramz! You can NEVER assume stuff like this: check, check, double-check.
So. Let’s say you call and confirm that the bus does NOT have seat belts. That means no car seats, at least not one that you aren’t MacGuyvering in there to dubious safety standards anyway. Then it’s up to you to make a judgment call. If you feel very strongly about the need for car seats, then perhaps the bus rental company could cut you a deal on a secondary rental car. I would not expect the bride and groom to pay for it, though, as it would be your call. (However, if the rental company says that your children are not allowed on board for liability reasons, then I’d say the cost of a rental car or cab should be covered for you.)
Now. Here comes the waffling.
The safety profile of a bus is VERY different from a car’s. There is a reason most buses don’t have seat belts — they’re actually safer without them, as a bus collision is vastly different than a car collision. Seat belts have been found to actually increase the risk of head and neck injuries on buses, due to the height and angles and build of the seats. Think about the hundreds of thousands of children who ride school or public transport buses every day, sans seat belts and car seats. (My 3-1/2 year old still rides in his Britax tank of a seat in our car, but rode unrestrained on a school bus multiple times this summer for camp field trips, and will be riding it every day this fall.) Even Disneyworld, with its entire prime demographic of the booster-seat-and-under crowd, shuttles everyone from airport to hotel to park to cruise ship in seatbelt-less charter buses, with small children expected to ride on their parents’ laps. A bus — even a short-ish charter bus — has a tremendous size advantage (and also doesn’t go as fast) over a car or SUV, so the chances of being seriously injured in crash are quite low, comparatively speaking. Your children would very likely be just fine on your laps. (You can also check the safety rating of a specific charter bus company here. )
Of course, you can also argue that the buses’ safety features are generally designed for adult bodies and not toddlers, and yes, there IS a risk of your child getting bounced off your lap or hitting the seat in front of you or some other injury. There’s also the risk of your child slipping in spilled champagne on the dance floor, or eating something tainted from the buffet, or pulling the ice sculpture down on himself. There is risk — there is always risk — and it is 100% up to you to decide if it is simply TOO MUCH risk. If so, well, practicality be damned. You make your own separate transportation arrangements. We all make a zillion of these judgment calls in our parenting lifetimes, and this one is no different. Good luck.
Published August 28, 2009. Last updated October 29, 2017.