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Are Built-In Car Seats Better Than Regular Ones?

Child Safety Seat Concept

Keeping our kids safe while we’re driving is every parent’s top concern, and we’d like to address one related issue that’s come up a few times in the last decade.

Built-in car seats have stirred controversy a few times in recent years, and we’d like to take a look at whether they’re really a good idea.

Built-In Car Seats Today

Dodge started integrating child seats into their Caravan design in the 1990s. The middle seat folds down to reveal a built-in booster seat that will accommodate a child up to 50 lbs. Several other car makers have since also begun integrating booster seats.

Child Safety Seat Concept

Volvo came out with a luxury concept in 2015 that features a built-in rear-facing, adjustable, and removable infant car seat complete with a storage drawer and built-in bottle-holder and warmer.

car seat safety newsletter

Advantages

Convenience – Both the earlier booster seats and the Volvo’s luxury seats focus first and foremost on convenience. Parents don’t have to worry about whether they strapped the seat in properly, and they essentially stow themselves when they’re not in use. Volvo’s seat automatically disables the airbag when the seat is in place, so the driver doesn’t have to remember to do it manually.

Less Distraction –  This rear-facing seat is designed to have someone seated across from the child, so the driver won’t have to worry about what’s going on inside the vehicle and can concentrate more fully on the road.

Possible Problems

Mobility – While the child carrier is removable, the built-in booster seats are fixed. This poses a problems, since emergency workers will typically remove the entire seat after an accident to avoid jostling the child. A fixed seat makes this impossible.

Location –  Volvo’s seat places the child seat in the front of the car, which is considered dangerous because of the passenger airbag. Though the car automatically disables the airbag when the child seat is in place, experts say the airbag could still be accidentally deployed during a collision.

Configuration Catch 22 –  Small children should ideally always be place in a rear-facing position so that they don’t suffer a whiplash injury in the event of an accident. However, any design that allows a caregiver and child to face each other will either place the child at risk of being struck by the airbag or of facing the wrong direction during an accident.

We want to know, what do you think about built-in car seats, a good thing or no? Share your comments below.

Guest post: Karen Devons writes for 1800Injured, which helps people suffering from whiplash symptoms or other car accident injuries to get the medical care and legal compensation that they deserve.

Copyright 2016 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.

© volvo

13 comments

  1. I have specifically looked for cars with the built in car seat. I never know when I may have extra kids that need this protection. I love that it will easily adjust to a variety of sized children. I don’t currently have kids of my own in car seats and don’t want to have to store car seats for the possibility of guest. I own a 2001 dodge caravan sport and dread the day that the car stops working for fear that I won’t be able to find a suitable replacement with the seats. I love that mine are there when I need and easily gone for the bigger passengers. What a brilliant invention.

    1. I agree completely! Mine are all out of car seats now….and we had a van with two built in car seats! It was the best! You could lean it back if needed, so they were at a recline.

  2. After being an emergency responder for more than a decade in a busy urban environment I have never seen a convertible car seat removed with a child still in it. This is common practice for infant seats so I dont think that would be a big issue. I would be very interested to see some crash test results and scientific evidence rather than an opinion piece on this.

    1. In my experience I’d say it depends.

      As a FF/Paramedic of nearly two decades myself, most of which was also in a busy urban environment where we ran an average 10-15 calls a day, I can appreciate your perspective. I can only say it depends on the crash circumstances and the particular policies of the responding party.

      In our training some situations allowed for us to take the child out of the car seat and some required us to remove the car seat with the child in it to transport to the hospital. Much depended on the crash and potential injuries of the child.

  3. I was just thinking if anyone had come up with this concept. I understand that there will be many pros/cons and tests to be conducted. I am totally for this, seeing many children not in seats is very upsetting. I pray all manufacturers will embrace this concept …not for the $ but to save lives of our most precious gifts. I am so thrilled to have Googled this information and indeed find this article!

  4. I had 4 kids and bought a 2003 dodge caravan with two fold down, built in car seats. I was the original owner. It was the best invention ever!!! No more moving car seats. Plus the fact it was the only car seat my kids couldn’t escape from! Saved me many heartaches…

    1. Great feedback! Thank you. I haven’t had much personal experience with built-in car seats over the years at car seat checks so this is interesting to hear.

  5. I have a 1998 S reg Volvo S70 4 door saloon, which, the arm rest in the centre of the rear seats pull down to form a child seat with the centre seat belt used to hold the child in place.
    I used to use this but was told it is now illegal. Is this correct?

    1. All of my research in car seat laws did not reveal any mention of built-in car seats being illegal. Assuming you are using the seat as specified by Volvo and Volvo is still OK with that position being used as a child restraint, it should be within the law. Does that seating position have a lap-shoulder belt? Booster seats require a lap-shoulder belt to provide the upper body restraint. Does Volvo still allow that seat to be used as a child restraint? You may need to consult with Volvo.

  6. I had the ‘93 Caravan as well and we loved it! I never had an accident so I cant comment on that but I am pretty sure since it is a permanent fixture it is safer than a car seat. i dont see one safe thing about the new car seats with a plastic cross buckle and 2 leg buckles. I could not unbuckle the leg parts from the front period. We had one that had a big plastic shield with a one hand release that aeemed much better. With improved car safety this may be too much now. Integrated seat should be in every car.

  7. I have a 1998 ford Winstar van that has 2 three point harnessing seats in the second seat love it all vans should have these working with children I have found they can excape car seats but these 3 point harness type are a little more time consuming for them wish I could find another newer van with these I don’t want to get a new vehicle because of this

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