Aviation experts say that the safest place for infants and small children is buckled in their own seats. The National Transportation Safety Board has asked regulators to require that every person have their own seat and seat belt—including children under the age of 2 who often travel in the arms of their parents or caregivers.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), however, has decided it will not enforce the recommendation. The reason has less to do with science than with sociology, economics, and statistics.
The FAA found that requiring parents to buy an extra seat for their children—even though it would make them safer—would scare off some cost-conscious consumers. Those parents would elect to drive to their destination, which would in turn put children in even greater danger than flying.
As The New York Times reported, “Last decade, the FAA considered changing the rule but decided against it, citing statistics from 2004 showing that nearly 43,000 people died on American highways that year, compared with 13 on commercial flights. The agency estimated then that a child-restraint requirement could result in 13 to 42 more highway deaths over 10 years.”
The other option would be to let children 2 and under fly free or at a reduced charge—a plan unlikely to gain much support from a struggling airline industry.