Ex Husband Travels with Kids Not Wearing a Seat Belt.

Updated on June 15, 2012
L.O. asks from Greenville, SC
14 answers

My ex husband is traveling this weekend with our two children (14 year old twins) and his current wife. They are driving for 14 hours in a cargo van and plan to let the kids sleep on an air mattress in the back with no seat belts. I called our state transportation department to find out that technically he isn't doing anything wrong, if there are no seatbelts available then it's legal for him to do this. I explained to my ex that it's not safe traveling without seatbelts and his response is that I'm annoying and paranoid. Would anyone else feel that this is unsafe for their children? How would you handle this situation?

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for taking the time to respond. I haven't ever asked a question online like this and its nice to know there are people out there that care! I just talked to my daughter and they arrived safely this morning. The majority of the answers say what my family says, that I can't do anything about it. That's what's so hard with divorce. If my ex wants to teach my children how to skydive or race motocross (which he does) I have no control over their safety.

More Answers


answers from Kansas City on

you two are not together. he's not breaking any laws. there is literally ZERO you can do at this point. so your choice is....do nothing, or do nothing. the only choice you have is HOW you react to the situation. you can be the shrew ex wife and cause all kinds of drama (very unlikely to change his mind, btw). you can state your opinion calmly and respectfully (as you state you already have) and then keep your opinion to yourself after that - i.e. handle it with grace and dignity as you should anything involving your ex.

and i'm with Shane. i'm sorry, but travelling 1000 miles to the beach to go on family vacations in the back of the pickup truck (with a camper shell) on mattresses are some of the best memories from my childhood.

understandably you're nervous. but if it's something you can't control (he's not your husband, it's not your trip, you really have no say once you send those kids off with him) there's something to be said for pragmatism. don't make yourself the bad guy in your children's eyes. you won't win this one.

(not for nothing - make sure you are also not being a hypocrite here. because none of us ever take risks while driving right? talking on the cell phone, not coming to a complete stop at a 4 way, not using our blinker...we're all perfect, right?)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

Well, seatbelt laws have defiinitely changed since I was a kid.
My sister and I travelled all the way to Oregon in the back of a pickup truck with a shell on it on an air mattress and sleeping bags. We slept the whole way.

My mom had a Mustang that she just recently sold that didn't even have seatbelts. My dad had a Model A. No seat belts.

I don't know what ages your kids are or what the laws in your state are, but it seems that he's not doing anything illegal. School buses aren't required to have seat belts, which seems kind of strange, but they are exempt.

Once my kids were out of car seats, they definitely just used the lap belts so they could lay down on the seat and sleep. It's hard to get comfy that way but my kids were car sleepers. My 16 year old will still prop a pillow up by the window and sleep on long rides or try to bend and sleep on the middle console.

I personally would be happy to sleep in the back of a vehicle on a long trip. But, that's just me. Maybe you can arrive at a compromise of some sort.

If he's not doing anything illegal, I don't know what you can really do but try to appeal to his sense of reason. Maybe there is some other way he can secure them.

Best wishes.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I would tell him how I feel in a calm way. Then I'd let go. The reality of getting into an accident is slim. You can't make him change his plans. Getting upset doesn't change the fact that he will go his way and only hurts you and perhaps your relationship with him if you continue to fuss about it.

As an adult I've traveled in a cargo van and slept on the floor. It is taking a chance but a very small, less than 1% chance of him being in an accident.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Missoula on

When I was a kid, we had a van like that... the six of us would ride on a bed in the back. We used to have so much FUN with it! At every turn we would roll over onto each other, we used to see who could stay in the same spot the longest, etc. lol.

As an adult and mother, I shudder at the idea. I think back at what could have happened if we got into a wreck... yeah, not so good. It doesn't matter how defensively you drive, you can never account for the other idiots on the road. ESPECIALLY for a 14 hour trip!!! I imagine they will be driving on the interstate at very high speeds, which compounds the issue even more.

Unfortunately, a lot of times laws like this don't get changed until enough kids die to make it worth the politician's while... I don't think you can do much since he isn't doing anything illegal (even if incredibly stupid...) and it is during his time... BUT for future reference, maybe you (and any friends, family, coworkers, etc. who agree with your viewpoint) could write your city hall or congressman (whoever you are supposed to contact over things like this...) and try to get something rolling. That way, in the future you may have a legal leg to stand on instead of being forced to stand helplessly on the side while your kids are in a dangerous situation.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

I'm surprised at some of the responses. Do none of you allow your children to ride a school bus? They don't have seat belts, you know. While I would be worried in your shoes too, it sounds like the only thing you can really do is offer to rent them a vehicle with seatbelts.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Seat belts and life jackets at the beach fall in the realm of safety.

If you really want to be safe in your car on the road, you will have a roll cage installed and 4 point sealt belts for all passengers and will only drive a Hummer. Anything less is not safe or less safe.

I read where several of you name cite a child or cousin that died because they weren't wearing a seat belt. My friend had an aunt and uncle that had a horrible rear end accident. She wore her seat belt and was always nagging (!!!) him to wear his seat belt. He seldom wore a seat belt. He was driving and rear ended a semi trailer carrying rebar (long metal bars used to re-inforce cement). He was thrown from their pickup and landed roughly in brush. He had a lots of scratches and a sprained ankle. She was safely in her seatbelt, but died with 100 rebar bundle that went straight through her chest and into the seat behind her. (Visualize a human shishkabob.) She was right to wear her seat belt . . . dead right.

Then there is the mom with two children. They were all safely belted in. A drunk t-boned her. Her car flipped over and the gas tank leaked. The fuel was ignited and she and her two children were burned alive because her wrist was broken and she couldn't unbuckle her seat belt to save herself or her kids.

When you go to the beach or go swimming do you put on a life jacket every time you go near the water? Or are you like most people and just wear your swim suit? Going swimming with out a coast guard approved life vest is as unsafe or more unsafe than driving a car and not wearing a seat belt.

Many people feel the government should stay out of the bedroom. I feel they should stay out of my car too!.

How would I handle it? I'd tell him to drive safe and have a nice time. No, I would not feel it was unsafe for my children or grand children. I can't say if you are annoying, but I agree that you are paranoid. If you don't wear a coast guard approved life jacket when you go swimming,then you are also . . .

Good luck to you and yours.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

As a mother who almost lost my son in a car accident I NEVER let my kids ride in a vehicle without seatbelts. If there are non available the you don't get to go.
I know Marda said there is only a 1% chance of an accident, but I do believe car accidents are number one injury and death causing in children.
As someone who watched my son be hooked up to 3 chest tubes, a machine to keep both of his lungs open (since they were both collapsed), countless MRI's and brain scans, watched him have lines put in through his groin, ankle, and neck...watched the DRs set 3 brken bones...I wouldn't wish that stress and tragedy on anyone. Those were the longest most wretched 7 weeks of my life. Did I mention that my son WAS wearing a seatbelt? If he hadn't he would gave died.
So yeah, it's fun to ride on an air matress....but is it worth your child's life? Nope. Tell them to prop a pillow and sleep belted in.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I knew you'd get the answers with the typical attitude of "We did it as kids and survived, so what's the big deal?" I can't believe that attitude. We didn't have car seats as kids and when there were accidents, the chances were astronomically higher that kids would die, compared to today when they must be properly in car seats or belted in if older. But that kind of reply always comes up when a person raises any safety question on here.

Do he and his wife plan to ride those 14 hours without seat belts too? If not, that would be illegal since the belts are available to them. If they do plan to use seatbelts -- they're hypocrites.

I would ask the local police about this. Do they stop and ticket for lack of seatbelts? It sounds as if they might not be able to stop him from doing this if the rule says "no available seat belts means nothing's illegal," but the cops might indicate that they would at a minimum warn him if they pulled him over. I'm not saying send them to see him; but you could tell him (if they say this) that it would indeed get him pulled over and warned. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much else to do.

Is he reckless with your kids in other ways? Does he disregard basic health or safety precautions in other ways? Think about it and think about whether this is part of any larger pattern of lousy parenting on his part. Might be worth discussing with your lawyer whether, if you can document a pattern, you could have this issue brought up in mediation or in court. I doubt any court would touch it but if you have a mediator it could come up there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

I think it is very unsafe. I lost my cuz because he wasn't wearing a seatbelt. I hope your Ex does the right thing.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Personally, I wouldn't allow him to take the children. It's not safe. But that is me.


answers from Los Angeles on

I wouldn't be happy with that. There are so many cars on the road today compared w/ when I was growing up that there is a greater chance of an accident. That being said, we traveled a lot in our motorhome when I was a kid. There were no seatbelts ...



answers from San Francisco on

Honestly, no matter what the state says, riding in the car/van/bus etc. is NOT safe without a seatbelt. I would drop off some literature to your ex and tell him you are not ok with the kids going without seatbelts. Best wishes~



answers from Houston on

I wouldn't be happy, either, but it's not your say. Sorry--that sucks. When we were little, we wore seatbelts more than our parents did. Seatbelts weren't the law then, but we decided on our own that we wanted to be buckled in. To this day, I'm not comfortable in a moving vehicle with no seatbelt. I don't know if it's too late, but maybe your children can get so used to being belted in that it becomes the norm for them and they're less comfortable being unbelted.



answers from Seattle on

If he is legally not doing anything wrong I'm not sure there's much you can do. You do not mention the ages of your children and while no this is not something I would personally be comfortable with at any age, in this case age can be a factor to perhaps be able to do something. I'm sure it must be illegal for a child who is supposed to be in a car seat to ride without. I do not see how it is not illegal to ride without a seat belt but then again I've never lived anywhere where riding without one was an option - cargo van or not. I would be seeing what options you have available to see if you can prevent this from happening.

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