One grandmother is so passionate about keeping children safe while flying that she invented CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System), the only compact child safety restraint approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for use on airplanes. Louise Stoll got the idea for CARES when greeting her daughter at the airport. She watched her daughter, who was seven months pregnant at the time, struggle to carry a heavy car seat, her toddler, and a diaper bag off the plane. Louise said, “That’s when I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’”
Why you should book a seat for babies and toddlers
Louise believes parents have been lulled into thinking flying with lap children is safe because the FAA and airlines allow it. She told me, “It’s rather amazing that in this day and age we permit babies to hurdle through space at 600 miles per hour in their moms’ arms, which cannot, as a matter of physics, hang on to them in serious turbulence.”
Even the FAA advises parents to avoid the hazard of flying with lap children. The FAA website asks, “Did you know the safest place for your little one during turbulence or an emergency is in an approved child restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap?” The site continues, “FAA strongly urges parents and guardians to secure children in an appropriate restraint based on weight and size. Keeping a child in a CRS or device during the flight is the smart and right thing to do.”
Finding another way to keep kids safe in the air
Frustrated that airlines refuse to offer the same safety protection to children as they do for adults, Louise said, “What it is going to take to correct these unacceptable situations is a lot of noise from parents – and one brave airline to initiate a child-safe policy.”
Originally Louise intended to sell the restraints to airlines, which would provide them to child passengers, just as extender belts are given to oversized passengers. She suggests airlines offer half-price discounts for children under age two to fly in a booked seat. Additionally, Louise believes airlines should provide a CARES to all flying children aged one to five to use on flights for free. This would enable parents to afford flying safely with young children. She said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the return on investment for the airline (which implements these changes) will be in triple and quadruple digit dollars by the families that will swarm to it.”
Her career path has transitioned from business woman to politician to inventor. When I asked Louise if she has always been an inventor, she said, “It was the only original idea I ever had in my life, but it was a good one.”
A background in transportation safety
Did I mention that Louise was appointed by the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Secretary for Budgets and Programs and CFO of the Department of Transportation? She had been working as an executive managing construction of public works projects when she received a phone call from the White House. Louise said, “None could have been more surprised than I.” In her role in Washington D.C., Louise helped to mandate car seats and seat belts in cars.
Louise has also fought to install seat belts on school buses. She said, “There are no seat belts in buses but there should be. That’s a criminal situation in my judgment.” She explained, “Children who die in bus crashes die because they hit their heads, not because they’re crushed. They don’t need to die.”
CARES keeps kids safe, while helping traveling parents stay sane. Not only is it more manageable to navigate the airport without lugging around a heavy toddler seat, but also a CARES restraint is much easier to install and uninstall in an airplane than a car seat. I have personally waited on board an airplane until all of the other passengers had disembarked for a maintenance crew member to assist me with uninstalling a toddler car seat. Those days of inconvenience and frustration are over now that I have purchased two CARES for my children.
The CARES restraint weighs less than one pound and is appropriate for children who weigh between 22 to 44 pounds. CARES is sold in hundreds of stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. The company also has distributors in numerous other countries.
What do you think about flying with lap children? Let us know in the comments below!
A Note from The Travel Mama: I interviewed Louise Stoll by telephone for purposes of this post. I personally paid for my children's CARES restraints. When this story originally went live in 2009, Kids Fly Safe provided one CARES to give away to a contest entrant. I did not receive any compensation related to this story.