Taxis are convenient when you just need to get to where you're going as soon as possible, without having to wait for the subway or getting on a bus and sitting through every stop. When you are out with a toddler, a taxi can be a lifesaver when you've had enough of carrying your tot from place to place or when it's time for nap and you are racing to avoid a meltdown. However, most taxis do not come equipped with a car seat, and in most states, toddlers are not required to ride in one when they are in a taxi.
Car Seat Laws
Every state has laws that require children under a certain age or weight limit to ride in a car seat or booster seat. However, most states exempt taxis and other vehicles for hire from these laws. For example, New York exempts taxis and limousines from these rules. A few states, like California, require young children to be in a federally approved safety seat any time that they are in a car -- even if they are in a taxi.
Providing a Car Seat
Even if you are not required to put your tot in a car seat, it is the safest place for him to be when in a moving vehicle. Though your taxi may not have a car seat installed, you can install your own. In fact, the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission encourages customers to do so. Instead of carrying around a bulky car seat on the off chance that you'll want to take a taxi, you can invest in a car seat/stroller combo that serves double duty. The car seat has wheels that can be pulled out to convert it to a stroller. Use it to push around your toddler while you are tending to errands, then push the wheels in to turn it into a safe car seat when you are ready to jump in a cab.
Adults can hold young children in their laps when riding in a taxi. However, this is not recommended since the force of a crash can propel a child right out of an adult's arms. The Car Seat Lady recommends always using a car seat, but if you do not have one available and you must ride in a taxi, you can strap your child into a seat belt. Adjust the belt so that it is as low on the lap as possible -- preferably over the top of the thighs -- and crosses the chest. If the belt crosses your toddler's neck, do not use it. The Car Seat Lady cautions not to put the shoulder belt behind your toddler's back as this can remove head support and lead to serious injury in a crash.
A better alternative to taking a taxi when you have your toddler with you is to take public transportation. Your toddler can be strapped inside his stroller while you are on the subway or the bus. Just bring an umbrella stroller that is easy to fold up and put away when you don't need it.