While kids may be staying home more during the pandemic, keeping them safe when you need to travel is important. Using the right
car seat, booster seat, or seat belt for every ride can save your child's life. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 during travel is also an important part of safe transportation.
How to clean car seats and seat belts
It may be tempting to clean and
disinfect your child's car seat the same way you do doorknobs, countertops, and even your steering wheel--with a disinfecting wipe, for example, or a spray of diluted bleach and water. For most surfaces, that's fine. Car seats and seat belts are different, though. Using a disinfecting chemical on them can cause damage to the belts leading the car seat or seat belt to fail in the event of a crash.
How to make a car seat or vehicle safe after exposure to COVID-19
If your child or any other person tests positive or has been exposed to COVID-19 and has been in the car, take the following steps:
Clean and disinfect the spot where that person rode including the seats, door handles, window and lock buttons, steering wheel, gearshift, and other hard surfaces within six feet of where they were.
Remove the car seats and place them out of reach or in a tightly sealed plastic bag for a few days. Wear gloves, a mask, and eye protection while handling the car seats, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. After a few days, you can use the car seats safely again.
If your child must ride in the car during this time, you will need to use another car seat that fits your child and your car.
Remember: seat belts cannot be disinfected. If you have another vehicle, it would be a good idea to use that vehicle instead of the one that has been exposed to COVID-19. Or, do not use that seating position for a few days. Weather permitting, parking in the sun and airing out the vehicle with the windows open may help get rid of the virus more quickly. After a few days, you can clean the seat belt with mild soap and water and use it again.
To further prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your vehicle, try to limit passengers to those who live in your home, not anyone outside your family. Also, if your child always rides in the same car seat, booster seat, or seat belt and nobody else rides in that spot, and nobody who rides in the car shows signs of COVID-19, routine cleaning (not disinfecting) is acceptable.
What to expect from schools, child care, and others who transport your child
schools, Head Start, child care, and other programs reopen, many children will ride in a vehicle that transports a lot of kids, like a school bus, child care van, or other larger vehicle. Programs should have written policies explaining how they will prevent infection during transportation. They also should have plans for how they will make the vehicle safe if a passenger tests positive or is exposed to COVID-19. Here are some things to look for:
Programs should make a detailed seating plan so that the same child always uses the same seat, car seat, or harness device and no other child uses it.
Buses should load from back to front and unload from front to back.
If a child tests positive or shows signs of the virus, the seating position, car seat, and seat belt or harness should be removed or taken out of service for a few days. After that, it can be cleaned and used again.
How to stay safe on public transportation
Public transportation often includes many passengers in small areas, which can increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading. It may be safer to walk or use a private vehicle while COVID-19 is spreading. When you do ride a train or bus, practice physical distancing as much as possible, wear cloth face coverings, and use
hand sanitizer frequently. When you arrive home, wash your hands thoroughly and consider changing into clean clothes.
What if my child has special needs?
For children with
special health needs, transportation plans must address both crash protection and prevention of infection. If your child has an
IEP, the school is responsible for providing safe transportation.
If your child has a weakened immune system, talk with your pediatrician about the risks and benefits of going to school or other activities in person. Some kids may be safest with online learning until rates of COVID-19 infection are under control in their communities.
For a child with a tracheostomy tube, use extra caution during transportation to lower the chance of spreading respiratory droplets, which can carry the virus. Caregivers should wear protective equipment and perform suctioning and other procedures in larger spaces outside the vehicle whenever possible.
Children who use a wheelchair and transfer to another seat, like a school bus, may be at risk from close contact with caregivers. It may be safer to use a transit wheelchair that can be anchored to the vehicle.
This guidance is only one part of keeping children safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether at home or on the go, it's important to keep a physical
distance of at least 6 feet whenever possible, wear
cloth face coverings, and
wash hands frequently.