Question: I am planning to fly with my 5-year-old grandson from Roanoke, Va., to Mexico City. Does Mexico require a car seat?
Jane Hellman Blacksburg, Va.
Answer: In researching this question, I found conflicting answers.
The World Health Organization says child restraint systems are the law in Mexico. But a representative answering the phone for the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism [(800) 446-39-426], recommended in the U.S. State Department’s consular information sheet, told me, “The seat is not a requirement, so don’t worry. It is recommended. If you have one, you can bring it to Mexico.”
My advice: Worry plenty. And take the car or booster seat.
In the end, whether it’s the law is irrelevant. What matters most is the safety of any kid who gets in a car. And if I were traveling in Mexico with a youngster, I’d worry about these statistics from WHO’s recently released “Global Status Report on Road Safety,” which researched conditions in 178 countries for this report:
* The second-leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14 is road traffic injuries. Overall, traffic was the ninth-leading cause of death in 2004 but was expected to climb to fifth by 2030.
* About 1.2 million people die in vehicular accidents and as many as 50 million are injured each year.
* Almost two-thirds of the reported deaths occurred in 10 countries worldwide. Mexico is one of them. (So is the U.S.)
And this reminder from a safety expert: “The law of physics knows no borders,” says Lorrie Walker, training manager and technical advisor for Safe Kids Worldwide. So how do you keep your child safe? Here’s what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website recommends:
Use a rear-facing seat in the back seat to at least 1 year old and until the child weighs at least 20 pounds. (The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that a child should ride facing the rear as long as possible. Walker notes that some seats now accommodate kids up to 35 pounds.)
Use forward-facing toddler seats in the back seat from age 1 and 20 pounds to about age 4 and 40 pounds.
Use booster seats in the back seat from about age 4 to at least age 8, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches tall.
Use seat belts at age 8 or if the child is older or taller than 4 feet 9 inches. Make sure the belt fits properly, Walker says--over the bony part of the hips and over the collar and shoulder bones. Those 12 and younger should ride in the back seat.
If you’re taking a cab or other private car, make sure there’s a seat belt in the backseat. And avoid overcrowded public transport.
Any restraint system is going to be a pain to travel with. Do it anyway to make it a multigenerational vacation to remember for all the right reasons.
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