My Obsession With Children And Car Seats

 Riding safely in Mexico
Daniel And Annika Riding Safely In Mexico

Update: CarSeat.se now online! Rear facing and general car seat advice.  Online store with sales of most Swedish car seats which allow 55 lbs (25 kg) rear facing. All of you who are finding this page by searching for "Swedish Car Seats, stop by CarSeat.se and say hello!

As a fairly new parent I love to see different parenting styles as we travel across the world with our children.  Pre-kids I didn't think much of this but nowadays I observe child related customs and traditions more than ever. I find it very educational.

 
Life in Mexico is much about children and family.  At least officially.  Tremendous effort, money, and care are used on the children but as soon as a child is riding in a car all commons sense, education, and care of the family seems to vanish completely. 
 
The Swedes are boring and believe in keeping our kids safe while letting them go kind of crazy.  We've always focused a lot on car safety for kids.  Swedish car companies Saab and Volvo built a reputation through the years by building safe cars and their thinking has influenced society greatly.  To be frank, 20 years ago their cars were extremely boring and dull, the only way of selling them was to make them reliable and safe. Today, they still make safe and reliable cars but have learned much and cars are no longer a snooze. 
 
It's extremely rare, and also illegal with a huge fine, to transport a child in Sweden without a car seat. People just don't do it.  The contrast is striking while visiting Mexico. Almost no  child is placed in a car seat. I always think to myself, why go through all this effort in raising a fine child while being prepared to trow it all away in the smallest car accident?  Especially when  money is not a factor?
 
The percentage of parents keeping  children in car seats  back in Sweden is close to 100%.  Here the ratio of kids without a car seat is near 100%.  I've almost stopped being upset about it and instead try to understand how parents  think.  It's no easy task. People look at us in a strange way as we strap our kids into their rear facing cars seats as soon as we get into the car.
 
We did of course bring our rear facing cars seats with us on this trip, actually we always bring them, and it's a great feeling to know our children are riding safely.  It's one thing less to worry about.
 
A little side note to this post is the story of my parents and their amazing safety thinking.  Guess how I rode in the car as an infant?  In a rear facing car side called "Klippan" (The Rock).  The car seat was a little simpler than today but I still find it incredible that my parents used a car set in 1966!  Isn't that awesome?!  I'm so proud of them!
 
My own thinking goes something like this.  I'm working very hard to be a good and involved father.  Through the years I will spend thousands of hours with my kids, and hundreds of thousands of dollars.  And just imagine the effort required in  raising them to be nice and well educated.  Why would I want to potentially throw that away by not using a $150 car seat which will almost certainly save my children's lives regardless of how badly I crash?  Even If I don't consider effort, money, and time, isn't keeping our little ones safe the right thing to do?
 
I know this kind of discussion is really boring but a car seat is probably the easiest, cheapest, and most effective thing we can do to keep our children alive.  Maybe with the exception of vaccines, but that applies mostly in third world countries.  $150 bucks one time cost is equal to a few of those  useless battery operated toys that can be found in any home.  I's very interesting to talk to people about this subject.  It's clear that most believe nothing much happens in a crash at  40 mph or on those short trips around the neighborhood.  Besides, everyone is a good driver and can't possibly imagine being in an accident.
 
Facts are  that an accident at 25 mph will most likely kill, or at least severely injure, a baby who is not fastened in a car seat.   Despite this I see almost every parent here pull up to their toddler's  expensive private school in a nice SUV and just shove them in the back seat.  Without a car seat or a seat-belt.  I find it heart braking.  I just want to run up to each  parent and explain the facts.
 
The problem over here has some to do with money and a lot to do with education.   Mexico is overall a very poor country.  A high percentage live in poverty and struggle to pay for the most basic things in life.  Many can't afford a car and there are millions out of the 90 million population who simply can't afford a car seat.  I have full understanding for this and wish I could help them in some way. 
But there are also lots of people who have the means to by as many car seat they want, but still don't do it.  It's well educated people with money. They spend thousands of dollars each month on private school, nanny, maid, etc but not $150 for a car seat.
 
Money is for the well educated clearly not a reason for not having a car seat.  People simply don't understand the potential danger of a small accident.  The Mexicans are really good drivers.  But stuff still happens.  Some facts that few people know is that most accidents  occur within 10 miles of the house and a low speeds.    That's bad news for parents.   These are usually times where we are relaxed and don't think much of safety.  A quick trip to the grocery store or McDonald's. At slow speed.  Nothing will ever happen.  No need for a car seat.  Yeah right.
 
Have you ever seen footage of what happens in a crash at 40 mph?  It's unbelievably scary.  Even seeing a toddler fastened in a forward facing car seat at these speeds makes me ill.  You can almost see the neck snapping.   And lets not even discuss a child without a car seat.  You will have to follow the hole in the windshield and look 50 feet ahead to find your  baby.  The good news are that if a child is sitting in a regular rear facing car seat nothing much happens.  The enormous force is easily absorbed.  I don't have these clips accessible here in Mexico so I can unfortunately not show them. Just to be clear, a forward facing car seat is still good protection but nowhere near as great as a rear facing.
 
I think authorities should make it mandatory for parents to watch 5 minutes of these short clips.  It would really make parents think twice about protecting their children.  Fear is not a good way of teaching people the facts.  Education and awareness is.  Maybe with a little fear.  Some more awareness of what will happen in an accident would save thousands of lives every year.  I's a shame that so many focus so much on clothes and toys and so little on a cheap car seat.
 
Can  you spend an extra 10 seconds fastening your kids in their car seats every time they get into the car?  Of course you can, and surely you do just that.  You might not think much about this simple task but you're making sure that you get to see your children grow up.  Many other tragic things can still happen but wouldn't it be a waste to see your kids die in a stupid car accident that could have been prevented by spending $150.
 
The Mexicans have taught me lot of good things during the past 20 years.  Many valuable lessons.  But they also have a thing or two to learn about keeping their children safe in cars.  I have lately been thinking a lot about the meaning of life and what I can do to make a difference.  I could definitely get passionately involved in a project like this.  Just image how many kids could be saved from death and paralysis each year.
 
End of todays boring rant out of Mexico…….. 

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30 Responses to “My Obsession With Children And Car Seats”

  1. Hello Hakan and Sandra with the kids! We hope that the”stomach bugs” has run away and that you are all fine and are having a sunny and lovely time in Cancun! I have just read your post about car seats for children and I feel like remembering you about the fact, that we, in little Boden were among the first in Sweden
    using a backward facing car seat for our child, that was you!! It was called “Klippan” and was of course the best at that time. The year was 1966 as you know.Very few things are new under the stars!! Try to tell them that in Mexico and everywhere else!!
    Lots of hugs to the family and to MIL and FIL!
    Åke y Gun

    Take care, all of you

  2. Hello, Here in Spain you don´t see rear facing car seats for babies over 11 Kg or one year old. What type of car seats do you use? Could you post some information or links about them?

    Thanks,

    Sara

  3. AD,
    I know what you mean about car seats. They are the law in the US and most people use them. But as you know we have many Mexican nationals living in the US, and I hate to stereotype, but I can’t help but notice that a huge percentage of them do not use car seats, even here in the US where they are required by law. It must be a cultural thing. I don’t know.

    I try to be tolerant and I NEVER report anyone for not using a car seat even though I think they should use one. I mean if I report them, all kinds of bad stuff could happen to the kids. You know immigration and everything.

    When I grew up in the US, no one had car seats and I know it is a risk, but most of us made it.

    But I understand your concern and it isn’t boring for me. I think about it all the time.

    I love your blog. Thanks for letting me inside your head.

  4. Hope you’re having a wonderful time in Mexico.

    I, too, would like to know who makes a rear-facing car seat for kids up to 4 years old. At 1, my kids’ legs were already smooshed so I had to turn them forward-facing. I just can’t imagine how there’s enough room!!

    Thanks!

  5. I really appreciate that you posted about this. I cannot imagine not having my kids in a carseat, but I like how you point out that all of this is a combination of money, education and culture. I also appreciate the perspective of rear-facing after the age of one. Our dd is currently forward-facing, but I am considering turning her around again. She is so light, I think it would be better for her to be rear-facing. As always, you have given me something to think about. Tack!

  6. Its the same in India, for a while a lot of the cars didnt even have seatbelts much less car seats for infants. I think its changed a bit now but i dont know many people strapping babies to carseats. I live in the U.S. now so will have to deal with this when we travel back home.

  7. Here in Ontario Canada children have to be in a rear facing car seat until they reach 20lbs and in a forward facing car seat from the time they reach 20lbs until the time they reach 40 lbs. At that point they have to be in a booster seat until they are either over 9, 4’9″tall, or 80lbs…

    My neice is 22, and the booster seat law just came into effect about a year or so ago. She only weighs 78 lbs so she thought she would have to take her driver test in a booster seat. That’s when she found out about the age and height requirements…

  8. in india car seats are hard to find, very expensive and not at all a requirement. yet the husband and i bought them for our children because we are very particular. people laugh at us and say we are very western in our ways. seat belts are not necessary so you can imagine the situation. its hard for one to imagine a different way of life, but the truth is, in a country with millions starving and dying, car seats for children are nowhere near being a priority…

  9. Every time I read about your mexican experience I assume you are talking about your wife’s family. I get they are wealthy but, as you know, people in the 91st percentil of wealth are a world apart from people in the 95th percentil so my question is: are they Ciudad Satelite rich? or Bosques de las Lomas rich? or Slim rich? Because the nanny talk always throws me away: what kind of people are you talking about?

  10. I hope thats not the actual picture of your kids using car seats. They are obviously both too big for those seats at least to be used rear-facing, and the straps are incorrectly used. Your children would be even safer if you took them and these seats to an car seat installation specialist.

  11. A concerned parent emailed me the link to your blog for me to take a look at the picture for my assessment. Each car seat should have on the side of it directions of how to install as well as weight and height requirements. It all depends on the manufacturers recommendation but your older child would probably need to be forward facing especially if it is a booster seat. Only convertibles car seats and infant seats should be rear facing. Most convertible car seats recommend turning them around between 20-30lbs and many kids are too tall these days to be kept rear facing past that. I am unaware of where you are from and different safety standards may be in place. Here in the United States our training provides us with information that not every parent knows. It’s not just about common sense. Our training lasted a week on all different cars and car seats. It does make it difficult to install sometimes. Please check your car seats and if you have any questions call the manufacturer. They should be more than happy to answer any questions you might have. The concern is only for the safety of your child.

  12. I am interested in knowing what seat your older boy is riding in — as well as his weight.

    We don’t often see parents in the U.S. keeping their little ones rear-facing as long as they can. You must be one of the exceptions to the rule!

    I hope to hear from you with the specifics of the seat (what is the maximum rear-facing weight limit, etc.)

    Thanks!

  13. anyone who says those two children are safer forward facing needs to do some research. What would you rather your child suffer from…broken legs or a broken neck? Legs can heal. I am a nanny in a very wealthy community where barely anyone correctly secures their children in the car. It doesn’t seem to be a money issue these people just do not care…not one of them is as strict about car seats and seat belts as i am and i don’t have kids. When the children are with me they are in britax car seats that i as a nanny purchased for safety and peace of mind. If a 22 year old nanny will put forward the money for the safety of other peoples children what on earth is wrong with these parents? In my opinion they all need to be scared a little so they realize that car accidents do happen and they are putting their kids at risk. I would love to hear from anyone who wants to hear more information that i have learned or disagrees with me…i find it interesting. Taylorrose85@hotmail.com

  14. You should come visit us at the forums on car-seat.org. You’d fit right in! You’ll see plenty of rear-facing preschoolers there. Including my own rear-facing boys who are 3½ and 4½ years old. Even in the US, most kids should be able to rear face until 2. Little peanuts like mine can make it to 5. We drool over Swedish seats with their high RFing limits.
    Come visit us and let us ogle your seats! ~ keri

  15. Hi, AdventureDad… Come visit us at Car-Seat.org, like Keri mentioned (I’m AdventureMom over there – LOL!). And kudos for keeping your children rear-facing to the limit of the seats. Any good Child Passenger Safety technician, as well as the AAP, can tout the merits of it. For the other viewers, there are plenty of seats in the U.S. that can be used for extended rear-facing: Britax Marathon, Cosco Scenera, Safety First Uptown, Sunshine Kids Radian, just to name a few… :)

  16. Just needed to add that the above response had a link for me which is not me – LOL! Don’t know where/how that site got associated with the name but I put my family’s website in there now … ;)

  17. Wow great blog! I’m a car seat technician and I want to commend you on your awesome seat usage! In response to some other posters, these car seats are NOT US car seats, so they look differently! As AdventureDad stated several times, they are Swedish seats that rear-face for a very long time (some up to 55 pounds, right?) and they are being used correctly. European car seats do not have chest clips.

    Also, several people stated that their kids’ “legs were smooshed” or that children must ride forward facing from 20-40 pounds. I would suggest googling “extended rear facing” or even just reading your car seat manual. All convertible car seats on the market rear face until AT LEAST 30 pounds (Graco, older Evenflo seats) but most RF to 33 pounds (Britax and Sunshine Kids Radian seats) or 35 pound (Dorel/Eddie Bauer/Cosco/Safety 1st seats, as well as Recaro and the new Evenflo convertibles). As a car seat tech, we always recommend rear-facing until the limit of the car seat. Children are four times more likely to be killed or seriously injured if they are forward facing!

  18. I just want to commend you for keeping your children rear-facing as long as possible. Good for you. You have given your children a gift of extended safety.

    I also want to comment on one of the above comments that stated that the harness was improperly used. It appears that your children are riding in European seats. I could be wrong about that, but that is what it looks like. If the comment was made because your children’s seats do not have a chest clip, the poster needs to be aware that chest clips are NOT used on European seats and they are perfectly safe. A chest clip is a PRE-crash positioner only. :) If the seat didn’t come with one, you can’t use one! :)

  19. I just wanted to post and say how cool it is to see a dad so attentive to his children’s safety in the car.

    I always love seeing pictures of European seats, and from your description it sounds like these are swedish seats so the height limits, weight limits and harness design are very different from the seats we have in north america.

    To the poster from Ontario, Canada, it is not the law that you must turn your child at 1yr and 20lbs. 1yr and 20lbs is the minimum to turn your child forward. The most common seats in use in Canada have a minimum weight limit of 22lbs in order to be used forward facing, and all have a rear facing weight limit of 30lbs. My daughter hit 30lbs just before she turned 3 and happily rear faced until then. My 16mo son is still rear facing and is perfectly happy & most importantly as safe as he can possibly be.

    Recommendations change over time and as more studies come out the increased protection rear facing offers compared to forward facing continues to be proven. I encourage all the parents I help at carseat clinics to keep their children rear facing as long as they properly fit the seat they’re using. If every parent did this, motor vehicle collisions wouldn’t all the sudden become the number one killer of children at age 1.

  20. You ROCK!! Keep up the good work! Your kiddoes are so cute!!

    Come join us at car-seat.org!! :)

    -Melissa-
    Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician
    Carseat Fanatic

  21. Wow your kids are beautiful and great job with the carseats dad!

    For those of you confused about his children-Keeping them rear facing until the limits of the seats is best practice and safer.
    An infant is definitely not too big to be rear facing, not sure what that means, as the law is one and 20 lbs anyway. And a toddler/preschooler is safEST as long as they are within rear facing limits, which they are.
    Any child that can be rear facing should be.

    Keep up the good work and hope to see you on car seat.org!

    ~Jessica

  22. Another car-seat.org gal checking in here. I can’t believe someone commented here *against* your car seat usage. Obviously those folks need to keep up to date with their info. Geesh! Good for you, adventure dad, for keeping your kids rear facing longer.
    I, too, hope you decide to pop in over at car-seat.org. I’m sure the men would love to have a little more testosterone floating around there. ;)

    ~Tara~

  23. How can a person in the US get these seats? I went on a swedish car seat website before that sold britax but it was all in the swedish language.

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