It’s a question almost every driver will get from passengers: I don’t have a car seat, but can I bring along my [baby, toddler, small child]? Today, we have a guest post from driver Jeff Parrott, who explains what the rules really are, what drivers are expected to do, and how drivers can diffuse tense situations with passengers. Have you received a request for a child without a car seat? What are your best suggestions for handling this request?
The text came in just moments after I accepted her Uber ride request: “I have my daughter, but no car seat.”
I was quick to respond: “I’m sorry, I can’t take her without a car seat.”
For a second, I felt relieved that her text had spared us both an awkward encounter. There is nothing worse than pulling up to a requester’s address and seeing an adult standing there with a small child and no car seat. How angry will she be when I deny her? How much time will I waste explaining why?
Uber & Lyft’s Official Policies
You probably won’t be surprised to learn, Uber doesn’t make it easy for drivers. There’s nothing, no tips or rules at all, when you search on the Uber website – meaning passengers have no idea if it’s okay or not to bring along their children.
In an ABC15 Investigation, Uber did release a statement saying “drivers are expected to comply with all state and local laws” putting the burden on drivers to figure out what those laws are and enforce/explain those laws to passengers.
Lyft responded to a reader through Twitter stating their Safety Policy, which tells parents/caregivers that they must provide a child car seat – but how many passengers are reading that Safety Policy?
What Should Drivers Do?
I’m sure it’s inconvenient to carry a child seat around with you. Ride the bus or a taxi and the law doesn’t require you to carry one. But Uber and Lyft policies require drivers to follow their state laws on child seats, and while state laws vary slightly on the sizes and ages of children requiring safety seats, nearly all states require them.
They should be required. It seems insane now, but I remember standing on the front passenger seat of my father’s car as he drove down the street in the mid-1970s. I was probably about three years old. He was an insurance agent, so he should have known at least a little bit about what happens in car accidents.
But today we certainly know better. Today we know that babies properly secured in car seats are 71 percent less likely to die in crashes, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Car seats reduce the risk of injury by 54 percent in children 1-4 years old, and in children age 4-8, booster seats reduce the risk by 45 percent.
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Parents (Should) Know Better, So Why Are They Willing to Endanger Their Children?
I felt hopeful when that passenger texted me ahead of time to say she didn’t have a car seat for her child. It meant she obviously knew she should have one. That’s progress. And the fact that she wanted to head off a face-to-face confrontation maybe meant that more drivers were finally refusing these requests.
But my hope quickly faded a minute later when I received (and ignored) another ride request from the same woman. Rather than prioritize her child’s safety, she was simply trying to find another driver who would be willing to risk it, break the law, violate Uber’s terms of service, and jeopardize everything he or she owns for the sake of a $5 ride.
Already this year, TV news stations in Phoenix, Kansas City and Nashville have aired stories in which reporters, without identifying themselves as such, tested Uber and Lyft drivers on whether they would transport infants and small children without safety seats. All three stories found drivers who said they would be willing to do so (the news crews stopped the interactions before the rides could begin).
Those weren’t scientifically valid sample sizes but it’s still troubling that so many drivers didn’t care about protecting kids from car crashes.
Make Sure You Get Paid
If you’ve driven all the way to a parent with a child but no car seat, you’ve forgone the opportunity to earn income from another rider. You’ve invested time and gas. You need to be paid. As is always the case, you should not have started the trip on the app until the riders are in the vehicle and you start moving.
What happens next can be a game of chicken, as the would-be rider might refuse to cancel their request, hoping to avoid being the one to cancel and pay a cancellation fee. But they will do it if they hope to find another driver willing to take them. If they don’t do it, drive just far enough away so that you’re out of sight and then wait for five minutes to elapse. After five minutes, you can cancel the request as a “no show” and receive the fee.
Strategies for Minimizing Confrontations
The first thing drivers should do when encountering a parent without a child seat is to try to diffuse their anger that will result from declining their ride request. You are not only denying them much needed transportation — you risk implying that they are unfit parents.
Empathize. You might be really annoyed but don’t show it. Explain that you understand they need to get to their destination, and that it can be a real pain to carry around a child seat.
Know the law in your state. The more authoritative you can sound, the less grief the rider should give you. Explain that it’s about more than just avoiding a ticket if you get pulled over, or ensuring your auto insurance policy will cover the child’s injuries. You are demanding use of a car seat because scientific studies have proven that it’s much safer for their child.
Tell the parent that Uber and Lyft policy requires you to follow your state’s laws. You need this job, and you can’t risk being deactivated for violating policy, or for acquiring traffic citations.
Finally, after pulling away, be careful not to accept another request that might be coming from that same parent.
You’re Looking Out for the Child and Yourself
So the next time you encounter a parent with a child but no car seat, remember these five Dos and Don’ts:
- Don’t give them a ride. Be firm in your resolve and don’t give in when they say that other drivers let them do it all the time.
- Don’t be surprised if they are angry when you decline to give them a ride.
- Do calmly and respectfully explain why you’re declining.
- Do make them cancel their ride request or do it yourself once five minutes have elapsed since arriving at the pick-up location, to ensure you receive a cancellation fee.
- Do drive away feeling good. You’ve done your part to protect an innocent child and your own financial well-being.
Drivers, do you often get these types of requests, where there is a child/toddler but no car seat? What is the law in your state regarding car seats?
Jeff Parrott works full-time as a daily print/digital journalist while also driving part-time for Uber and Lyft in South Bend, Indiana.
-Jeff @ RSG
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Related article: Essential gear every rideshare driver should have