The 12 passenger van is in some ways, the scourge of the Child Passenger Safety world. These vans often lack head restraints, are often used to improperly transport young children, and are home to a host of creative safety practices due to their age or their occupation. During a recent trip to Orlando, I had occasion to ride in a number of shuttle buses. Since I’m your intrepid reporter, I documented most of the interesting and questionable safety practices I saw along the way.
Internal Resort Shuttle
More than once during our trip, we hitched a ride on an internal resort shuttle. Sometimes, this shuttle is a golf cart but on this trip, our family of 4 found ourselves riding in a 12 passenger van. The first time was in the middle of the night when the shuttle arrived to take us to our new room after an issue with our original room. We were so tired, I almost didn’t notice that my seat (the closest one to the double doors) didn’t have a lap belt attached! I guess leaving it attached would’ve been inconvenient for people entering the back rows, so it had been unbuckled.
That same bus also lacked a cover for the buckle stalk. I didn’t notice this (or even think to look for it) until my daughter mentioned having a hard time buckling herself in. That’s when I saw the buckle stalk was missing parts. We slid her over to a seating position that had a working seat belt but if our family was any larger, we would’ve been faced with some challenges. Because vans are used by so many people, safety features may break and remain broken without the driver or management knowing.
If we were traveling with a larger party, we would’ve had the choice of waiting for the shuttle to return for a second trip or putting an older passenger in the seating position that essentially lacked a working seat belt. For that trip, we were expecting a golf cart so we didn’t have my younger daughter’s Ride Safer Travel Vest ready. We asked the driver to wait while we got her into the vest before we took off.
Seat Belt Origami
Another shuttle at a different resort offered a different kind of misuse, one that I call Seat Belt Origami. Here we see that the seat belts have been woven into a pretty pattern. They hang nicely on the side of the bus and are completely unusable. Once again, we shifted ourselves around to sit in positions that had access to working seat belts. This second van also had a buckle stalk that was missing a cover. The seat belts may have been be cut by someone moving a sharp object through (or any number of other reasons) and because the expense and time for replacement is too much, they were cleverly tied out of the way.
Urgent Care Shuttle
I had the misfortune to require a trip to Urgent Care during our vacation. The provider offered free rides on (you guessed it) a 12 person van, where I encountered this car seat. I assume it was installed for patients’ convenience but it’s not somewhere I’d put my own child. Not only does it have a kind of scary-looking after market cover that is NOT tested for safe use with the seat, the rear facing recline block is extended in the forward facing position.
If your family needs to travel via shuttle bus to an Urgent Care facility, we’d suggest using the child’s own car seat, booster seat, or a Ride Safer Travel Vest. Ideally, families who are traveling to Disney would bring their own equipment for taxi cab rides. Renting a private car is also an option if you feel there will be quite a bit of need for a car, though we caution against renting car seats.
A couple of the buses had a top tether that looks a little different than the top tethers we’re used to seeing. This one is made of seat belt material and hangs off the back of the seat. Though it’s different, it is a valid tether and we were glad to see it in available in one of the vans.
Some taxi cabs are (you guessed it!) 12 passenger vans. We’ve met a few well-intentioned drivers who carry car seats as a convenience for their passengers. This is great, right? It could be. But our random sample of taxis revealed a disturbingly large collection of rear facing only seats in one van and a stack of expired car seats in another. Besides so many being expired, there’s simply no way to know the history of these car seats. The cab driver we spoke to had no idea that car seats expired, let alone that the seat he offered my daughter expired 5 years ago.
Shuttle buses are very unpredictable: much like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. We hope your chocolates feature functional seat belts and accessible tether anchors. As always, bring your own appropriate booster, vest, or car seat and be ready to advocate for the safety of your children.