Are RVs safe for babies(RV’ing with babies and kids)
Taking an RV trip with the family is one of the most rewarding and fun experiences you can have with your kids. RV trips are great ways to bond, spend time with your family, and generally have a fun adventure.
However, as with any moving vehicle, your child’s safety is a priority and must be put before everything else. So how fit are RVs for kids, namely, are RVs safe for babies?
Here’s what you’re going to learn about in this post:
- Basic safety considerations for RV travel and how they can be problematic
- Options for RV travel with babies and toddlers
RVing with babies: safety considerations
The safest way to travel with a baby in a moving vehicle is in a front facing seat, with your baby in a car seat that’s attached to the frame of the car.
Many cars have clips that your car seat can latch on to – these are attached to the car frame, or you can use a seat belt to secure the car seat.
Here’s the big issue.
Vehicles above 10,000 lbs(as most RVs are) are not required to have passenger seat belts or to meet any standards for passenger seat belts.
Only the driver and passenger seats are.
While this may seem like oversight, consider that most large vehicles are in fact trucks where there are only two usable seats, and RVs are usually built on the chassis of trucks or vans.
Note: If you have a smaller RV that falls under 10,000 lbs, then there will be proper seat belts in the back that you can strap a car seat onto.
At this point, you may be thinking: some RVs do have seat belts in the dinette area!
Yes, they do, but those belts are usually attached to the wooden frame, or to a metal beam attached to a wooden frame. These belts are not secured to the chassis of the car, which is the strongest part of the vehicle.
In a high speed crash, the belts could easily detach from the wooden frame or metal beam, or worse yet, the entire beam or wooden plank could come loose.
One more issue
Another serious issue with RVs is that there is so much stuff inside the RV. There are cabinets, furniture, a refrigerator, a propane tank, and so much more.
In a high-speed crash, all of these things can come flying out and become projectiles. The latches and clasps that hold these things closed are not the strongest, so a bad enough crash can cause all the cabinets to fly open and everything inside the cabinets to fly out.
This includes pots, pans, cutlery, and really anything else you may have put in the cabinets!
I hope you see how serious this is now!
Don’t take safety lightly
Just because an RV is a large vehicle, don’t get over-confident. Yes, larger vehicles generally sustain less damage in a crash than smaller vehicles, but it’s really the contents of the vehicle that you need to worry about.
Plus, you don’t know how securely the living area of the RV has been attached to the chassis. Many RVs have lots of moving parts in the frame itself, like awnings, pop-out rooms, and so on – these may seem secure from the outside, but these would be the first things to buckle in a crash.
RVs and child seats
There is a lot of varying advice regarding car seats and RVs on the internet, but the soundest advice can be distilled into the following three options:
Option 1: Use a towable RV instead of a motorized RV
Since RVs have the seat belt and regulation issues mentioned above, the best way to get around that problem is to just use a towable RV instead of a motorized RV.
With a towable RV, you can enjoy the comforts of an RV when stopped but also have the safety of a car when you’re moving. A conventional car will most definitely have the required safety features for strapping in a child seat.
Option 2: Take a regular car along with your motorized RV
This is not a very practical solution, but it is certainly possible if you have two drivers. When driving, split up your party into two so some people are in the RV and others are in a normal car. Your baby can ride in the normal car, securely strapped onto the car seat.
Option 3: Find an RV that meets federal safety standards for rear seats
This may be the hardest option of the lot, and you may also find that the salesperson is not always fully knowledgeable about the issue, but it’s worth looking into if options 1 and 2 are not viable for you.
Still, the issue of things flying out of cabinets(and even cabinet doors flying off hinges) in a bad crash is there.
Babyproofing an RV
Another important safety consideration for traveling in an RV with a baby or toddler is babyproofing the cabinets and doors!
At home, all doors and cabinets are babyproofed with latches and clasps so the RV should be the same.
You don’t need to babyproof any doors that are higher than what your child can reach, of course!
The refrigerator on most RVs is indeed closed with a clasp, mainly as a energy saving feature rather than a safety feature, but it serves both purposes. For the rest of the cabinets, you’ll have to look into other solutions such as this one.
Here’s a quick checklist of things to babyproof:
- Latches on doors and cabinets
- Turn down hot water temperatures
- Cover electrical outlets
- Get gates to block stairs/steps areas
- Tie up loose cords
- Make sure electrical heaters are inaccessible
- Make sure medications and chemicals are out of reach
Cabinet locks: These are essential to prevent your child from accidentally opening cabinets and having things fall on them.
Outlet covers: Outlet covers are a must have, especially since curious toddlers love to stick their fingers into any holes they can find!
Door knob covers: These will prevent your child from turning a doorknob and opening it.
Oven knob covers: If you’re not able to block off access to the kitchen, then these oven knob covers will prevent your child from accidentally turning on the gas.
Travel crib: A travel crib is a must have, especially since it’s a great space for your baby to sleep and it also doubles as a playpen for when you need to get some things done.
Safety gate: If your RV is big enough to have multiple sections, or at least to prevent access to the side door of the RV, a safety gate is a must.
Travel high chair: This is a folding version of the classic high chair, really good for feeding your baby on the road.
Planning your route
It’s also very important to plan your route with your child in mind. Remember, traveling with an infant will be much slower than traveling normally. You’ll have to plan a lot more stops for nappy changes and feeding, and also stay relatively close to major roads so you can get help in case of an emergency.
For RV trips with baby, it may be best to avoid taking backroads and sticking instead to highways or at least roads that are more or less parallel to major highways.
This way you are always within a short range of emergency services and most importantly communication.
RV travel with toddlers and kids
When traveling with toddlers and kids, make sure that they’re always seated when the vehicle is moving!
Even though an RV may have the comforts and conveniences of a home on the inside, it’s still a moving vehicle and will be subject to the same bumps and turns of the road that a normal car will.
While it’s tempting to putter about in a moving RV and do your thing, a bump or sharp turn can easily make you lose your balance and possibly hurt yourself.
When traveling with kids in an RV, make sure that they’re always seated if the car is moving. Only allow them to get up and move about if the RV is pulled over or parked.
Because there is so much furniture and other objects in the RV, if you fall down, the chances of you bumping something are much higher.
Finally, even though we hated on RV seatbelts above, they certainly are better than nothing, so it is indeed a good idea to stay belted in while you’re seated.
RV crash testing
Some RV manufacturers do RV crash testing: