MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Most parents would never think of driving their young child around without a car seat. But what about when you hail an Uber or Lyft? Will ride share drivers take the risk with young children?
“You always need to buckle up and make sure kids are buckled up as well,” says Susan Helms with Safe Kids Midsouth.
She has been pushing child car seat safety for more than 20 years. But we wanted to know, in a new era of ride-sharing like Uber and Lyft, whether drivers are bound by the same rules and whether they would break them.
“Safety is the number one thing on the list all the time,” says Michael, a WREG employee and parent.
He has two daughters, Mikayla, 6, and Avery, 2. Both are the age where they are supposed to be in car seats or boosters.
He set up a Uber ride in downtown Memphis for him and the girls to see whether the driver would transport them without the girls being in car seats.
It didn’t take long before his driver shows up to take them a few blocks away to the Civil Rights Museum. Michael asked if it is ok for the girls to ride without a car seat.
“Man. I don’t need no car seat or nothing do I?” Michael asked the Uber driver.
“No sir. Unless you feel that they need it,” the driver replies. “We’ll just sit back. We gonna be ok. Just let the windows up, drive safely and put the air on. ”
He says he will drive safely. He allows the kids to get in and is ready to roll when we stopped him.
The driver looks stunned and said he wasn’t sure of the rules and may not have read that part in his driver’s manual.
“What are you supposed to do if they have kids?” we asked.
“I guess I should have told him she needs a car seat,” the Uber driver finally responded.
He admitted he knew he wasn’t supposed to drive a young child without a car seat, but he said this was a short trip around the corner.
But this Uber Driver wasn’t the only one.
A Lyft driver Michael booked in West Memphis, Arkansas did it too, showing up to pick up Michael and the girls from a restaurant.
“Hello. You doing ok? Do we need a car seat? She is 2,” Michael says to the Lyft driver.
“She is 2? I don’t have one. She can get in the seat belt. My nephew is 2 and he rode in the seat belt before,” said the Lyft driver.
When we approached her, she knew she was caught and broke into tears.
” I don’t know what you want me to say. It was wrong,” she said.
We asked if she has transported kids without car seats before.
“My nephew has rode in here,” she said.
We tried it in Mississippi.
“Hey I don’t have a car seat. Is that ok?” Michael asked the Uber driver when she arrived.
“Yeah. it is fine. We will have to make it ok today,” says the Uber driver.
But what happened when we confront the driver is a total surprise.
“I am sorry,” the driver said.
She said she was not about to take the baby without a sear and drives off, getting away from our questions with her back car door still open.
All of the drivers we tested agreed to drive kids without car seats. They were either unclear about the laws or willing to break them .
Uber and Lyft drivers are supposed to follow the laws of their state when it comes to transporting kids in-car seats, and every state says young kids in cars must be in some type of restraint.
Some rideshares like Lyft have a feature on their app where for a $10 fee you can request a car seat when you book. But, it’s only available in select cities like New York.
“Even if you are just going a short while, an accident can happen at any time. If you are an excellent driver, that is great, but the other guy might not be,” said Susan Helms.
Lyft responded to our questions, saying passengers should plan to provide their own car seats for children needing one and the company supports drivers who decline to transport passengers without a car seat.