Summer is the perfect time for a great adventure with your family. Whether you’re planning a magical Disney experience or a daring Yellowstone hiking trip, you’ll need a place to stay and a way to get around! This is why RVs are one of America’s favorite travel tools. It’s one of the best ways to save money and bring all the comforts of home with you while you explore the world! Right?!
Well…no. We hate to be the fun-sucker in the room, but when planning your next family road trip, safety has to be a top priority. And unfortunately, there are a lot of big safety concerns with these big rigs. So today we’ve dedicated a post to RVs and answering the question: Are RVs safe for kids? Let’s find out:
Are RVs Safe for Kids?
Though RVs seem super convenient on the surface, they are not safe for children. To be blunt, there is no way to safely buckle your kiddos into most Class A, B, or C recreational vehicles. Beyond the cab, the RV’s seats do not meet the requirements of federal motor vehicle safety standard 208, which regulates seatbelts in passenger vehicles to ensure the greatest level of safety on our roads.
In RVs, instead of the seat belts being attached to the frame of the vehicle, the belts bolt to the wooden floor. Because of this, the seat belts often break free during crash events. These seatbelts are more decorative than functional, and they won’t protect an occupant — whether that’s an adult or a child in a car seat.
Even if these seatbelts were suitable for passenger use, most of them are still useless for car seats. Why? Because so many RV seatbelts are on sideways-facing vehicle seats, but car seats must be installed on a vehicle seat that faces the front of the rig. This is how car seats are designed and crash tested. They aren’t engineered or tested for impacts in a sideways-facing installation setup, so there’s no way to predict whether that car seat would protect the child during a crash.
Additionally, RVs are full of dangerous projectiles.
Objects like kitchen appliances, dishes, and other household items come loose in crashes and missile across the cabin. And despite popular misconception, RVs are not built like buses, and their structural soundness is questionable at best. In many cases, RV manufacturers aren’t even required to crash test their vehicles! In third party studies, researchers found RVs crumpled in accidents at speeds as low as 20 mph. Even large Class A recreational vehicles!
At the end of the day, there is no way to travel safely with your kiddos in a traditional RV. But, if the nomadic or tiny home lifestyle is one for you, don’t worry! We have a way to get you to your minimalist dreams. Here’s our safety tips for RVs:
Car Seat Safety in RVs
Choose an RV wisely. Most options aren’t safe!
All three types of major RVs are unsafe for children (and really any occupant outside the cab). Neither Class A, B, nor C recreational vehicles have any occupancy crash testing or rear seat safety requirements. And based on what we’ve seen, there isn’t enough structural integrity to protect your children in a crash. At the end of the day, you won’t find an RV where your child can safely ride in the back seats.
But, don’t worry. We don’t want to ruin your summer vacation. We recommend towable campers. Yes, lots of campers are tiny, but there are plenty of fifth wheel behemoths that provide the same amount of space and level of luxury that an RV would!
All you need is a towing vehicle capable of pulling your big RV. If you don’t want to get a new ride, there are plenty of campers that attach to a regular hitch. When you go this route, your kids can be safely buckled inside a vehicle that is crash tested and follows strict safety requirements. This way, you’ll have peace of mind AND the trip of your dreams.
Learn your state’s RV safety laws.
Having a child correctly buckled into a seat belt per the manufacturer’s instructions is required in most states. This means buckling your child who is meant to be rear-facing into a side-facing vehicle seat might not only be unsafe, but illegal. Check your state’s child passenger safety laws to ensure whatever decision you make is by the book.
No children in the front seats, side-facing seats, or non-safety standard compliant seats.
As we’ve discussed, your child needs to be in a safe seat. (That’s kind of our whole thing here at Safe in the Seat.) They shouldn’t be in any seat that does not follow FMVSS 208 safety standards. Unfortunately, no seats in the rear of an RV comply with the minimum safety requirements for child passengers.
Rear-facing bench seats and side-facing seats, even if they happen to have a lap belt and shoulder belt, are not typically compliant. They’re not fastened to the RV effectively, which can cause serious injury or death in a crash.
If that wasn’t enough, a car seat is not made to take impact while installed sideways. And without a properly mounted seatbelt, your car seat won’t work as intended in a collision – not even when facing the proper direction.
This means there is NO safe way to ride in an RV. Understand exactly what types of seats you can safely fasten your child into, and if it’s not compliant with the safety standard, don’t do it! Ever!
Eliminate projectile risk.
If you do go with a Class A, B, or C recreational vehicle, no matter what, SOMEONE will be riding in the vehicle. Even if it’s just the driver. Because of this, you must ensure there are no projectile risks. Lock every cabinet, put all loose objects away, and reinforce your appliances. You’d be surprised to hear that many appliances aren’t securely fixed on an RV. Make sure you check the security and reinforce it if you can!
Drive a separate vehicle with the kids.
If you decide to keep your RV, simply take two vehicles. One adult can drive the RV while the other drives a standard, regulated passenger vehicle. When you do this, you’ll know that all your car seats and boosters are doing their job and protecting your children. We’ve even got some tips for road trips with kids here if you’re nervous about riding alone with them.
Once parked at your destination, you won’t want to drive your RV to your various excursions and errands. You’ll want your regular vehicle, anyway! Instead of towing it, take it separately. Your family still gets the RV lifestyle, but you have peace of mind. Everyone is safe and everyone is happy!
Don’t compromise for convenience.
As much as you were looking forward to the nomadic lifestyle or exciting summer adventures in a regular RV, it’s not worth the risk. The safest option for your family is a towable trailer, so do that! You still get all the joy of the holiday without the risk.
There’s never a reason to compromise safety for convenience, especially when it comes to your children. There are lots of places in parenthood to take shortcuts, and car safety is not one of those acceptable shortcuts. Accidents are the leading cause of death for children, so let’s do what we can to keep our kids safe!
Know the facts.
RVs aren’t safe. They don’t fare well in crashes, they don’t have safe seats, and they’re full of dangerous projectiles. Even the Manufacturers Alliance for Child Passenger Safety (MACPS) confirms the safety concerns of RVs and states children should not ride in them. They agree with us here at Safe in the Seat—buy an amazing towable camper and continue your plans with a safe setup for all your passengers!
There is no safe way for child passengers to ride in any type of RV!
If you’re planning on switching to tiny home living or just want an incredible summer road trip, Safe in the Seat wishes you all the best! We hope it’s full of all the best memories and all the joy in the world. Just remember that there is no way to safely travel with children in an RV. So, instead, opt for a camper or drive a second vehicle. Keep everyone safe and have the RV experience you’ve always dreamed of!
If you’re still confused about RV safety and how to use your car seat, we recommend you speak with a car seat consultant! They can give you recommendations, advice, and training on your car seat. Advice that’s personalized to you, your experience, your seat, and your child. They’ll answer any other questions you have about road tripping to make traveling totally stress free.
For more information on vehicle safety, check out our blog and Instagram. We discuss all things car seat safety, because there are so few resources out there to find true car seat education. It’s our goal to share knowledge about car seat safety with women everywhere, so all your kiddos can be safe in their seats! Let’s make the world safer, one caring mom at a time.