There is nothing like arriving to your pick-up destination, especially after taking the chance that the 12-minute drive would be worth it, to see a parent and multiple small children. “Well crap,” is what I usually say, or at least some NSFW variation of that phrase. So, you roll up to them with your doors locked and roll your window down to say, “Do you have car seats for these children?” More often than not, the answer is a firm “No,” or “They don’t need them,” or, the worst of all: “My last driver didn’t make me take them.” That last one right there, that gets me. It is amazing to me how so many drivers will take a child without proper safety precautions. In Michigan the law is as follows:
- If a child weighs less than 30 pounds or is less than 2 years old, they must be in a rear-facing child seat.
- If a child weighs more than 30 pounds, but less than 50 pounds or is between the ages of 2-5, they must be in a forward-facing child seat.
- If the child is not more than 57 inches tall, weighs 50 or more pounds or is between the ages of 5-8, they must be in a booster seat.
- A child who is 8 years old or older must be wearing a seatbelt.
Laws in other states are similar but please check your state’s laws for exact regulations.
Now, many people argue that because we are a commercial vehicle these laws do not apply to us. This is one area where things get a little murky. While looking at the Michigan state law, there is a list of exceptions to car seat rules, including this excerpt, “This section does not apply if the motor vehicle being driven is a bus, school bus, taxicab, moped, motorcycle, or other motor vehicle not required to be equipped with safety belts under federal law or regulations.” It is unclear if legally we are considered “taxicabs.” There is currently no statute stating that rideshare drivers are taxi drivers, especially considering we are exempt from many of the same rules and regulations that taxis are subject too. Until this legal gray area has changed, it is better to take extra precautions and follow all local, state, and federal laws that any civilian driver would legally be required to follow. But many drivers wonder whether or not they are legally responsible party.
Another argument I often hear from drivers is that car seats are the parent’s responsibility, not ours. Part of me wants to agree with this. Generally, however, the person driving the car is the person responsible for those in the vehicle. So, if you let a child in your car without a car seat even with their parents’ permission you could be ticketed. There are also ethical concerns here if you were to be involved in a crash and the child was hurt. You could be looking at losing your only or part-time income for what, $5.00?
This leads me to the last reason I hear from other drivers in the community about why they chose to take a child without a car seat. Money. You lose the fare and your cancellation rate goes up. I get it. Looking back at the scenario I presented, you just drove TWELVE minutes to pick someone up for a whopping $3.60 cancellation fee on Uber. This hurts. When you rely on your rideshare income to provide for your day-to-day life and you waste almost 15 minutes for less than $5.00, it really sets you back for the day. I know many of us are trying to average $15+/hour to survive and this ill-prepared passenger just wasted our time. And with the full roll out of UberPro, many of us are also trying to keep our cancellation rate down; or, just keep it reasonable on Lyft so we are not deactivated. But is it worth putting the life of a child at risk?
At the end of the day, I can’t tell you what to do. I can give you recommendations and ask you to look deeply at yourself. Can you live with the ethical and moral concerns of risking a child’s life? Can you afford to lose your job even if it does cost you 15 minutes of losing money? The big picture here is simple for me. Require that kids are kept safe and don’t compromise. Parents know the rules, many CPS services give out free seats, and just because Mom or Dad doesn’t care doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Some drivers also goes as far as purchasing their own booster seats. Here is a couple of great links for options for this. Ensure to check your local laws and regulations before purchasing a seat.