Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ride a roller coaster with your baby on your lap?

Just imagine:  you're plunging downward with incredible speed, swerving in one direction, then another.  Some people love that feeling on a roller coaster, and get a happy rush of adrenaline -- but if you're on a plane, it's the last thing you want. 

The tallest, fastest roller coaster in the world is Kingda Ka, located at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, USA. Its top speed is 128 miles per hour (206 km/h) and it drops from a peak of of 456 feet (139 meters).  Even your average, run of the mill roller coaster travels between 70-100 mph.  To ensure the safety of its riders, hydraulically-powered steel harnesses brace over the shoulders and around the hips.  Eyeglasses and other loose objects must be removed before the ride begins, so that they do not injure their owners or other passengers should they come loose.

So, would you ride a roller coaster with a baby on your lap? Of course not.  You wouldn't even have a choice: If you tried to ride a roller coaster with an infant, you'd probably be arrested.

Now let's talk about airplanes.  The average commercial airplane travels between 160-180 mph at takeoff, and between 400 and 550 mph at cruising altitude, which is usually 30,000 feet. 

Take a moment to compare:
  1. The fastest roller coaster in the world goes 128 mph, while the average commercial airplane travels faster than that on takeoff, and about triple that speed once it's in the air.
  2. Riders of the tallest roller coaster in the world fall from a height of 456 feet.  Passengers in a commercial airplane are 30,000 feet above the ground.
So it's obvious that airplanes travel higher and faster than roller coasters, and that riding a roller coaster with a baby in your lap is an unwise and probably unlawful idea.

And yet, when planning a trip, parents wonder, "Is it safe to hold my baby on my lap during a flight? Do I have to buy a seat for him? She's so little, can't I hold her on my lap?" How sure are you that you could keep hold of your baby in heavy turbulence or a crash landing, at 300 miles per hour?  Heck, if I trip while walking down the street, whatever I have in my hands goes flying.  Crash tests conducted at slow-poke speeds of 30 mph have metal crumpling and bodies flying through windshields.

Airlines don't require that children under 2 years have their own seats, but remember that crazy, illegal notion of holding your baby on a roller coaster? 128 mph vs 170 mph.  Five hundred feet vs thirty thousand feet.  Even if it were allowed, I wouldn't do it.

Millions of people fly every single day.  Statistics indicate that air travel is the safest form of transportation, so maybe it's just one plane a year that has to ditch in the Hudson River, skids off the runway, has serious, head-knocking-on-the-overhead-bin-cancel-the-beverage-service turbulence, or inhales a flock of Canadian geese into its engines.  What are the chances that YOUR plane is going to be THAT plane?  Who can tell?

Cost is obviously an issue (especially for families with two or more children) but if at all possible, please purchase a seat for your baby and use an FAA approved child restraint.  Your baby is one in a million, but you don't want her to be THAT one.

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