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Breaking the Law For Your Child

Does Mother Know Best, Even If She Breaks the Law?

As moms we get an onslaught of advice from our peers, parents, pediatricians and just about everyone in between. But, when it comes to the law, there's not much room for flexibility.

And, in one case my mother's intuition (and plain ol' common sense) told me I knew best.

A few months shy of his first birthday, my son's legs were so long that they were squished up the back of the chair in his rear facing car seat.

He'd shriek in pain when he stretched because he was crammed in such an uncomfortable position. And, being that he was the size of a child six months older, I turned his seat forward. To see what happened,


California's strict car seat law requires children to weigh 20 pounds and be one-year-old before they ride facing forward. I knew that The California Highway Patrol could issue me a ticket if I got pulled over, but felt it was worth the risk since my lil guy's legs would likely be broken if we got in an accident with him facing backwards.

Have you ever broken a law believing it was in the best interest of your child?

Join The Conversation
Moms Moms 9 years
Thanks for all the good points.
backfat backfat 9 years
They go on and on about this on the parenting forum I frequent. General consensus is that we'd rather have a cramped infant with a possible broken leg, than a broken neck and death. I wouldn't turn the seat. The infant's life means more to me than their temporary comfort. Cramped legs is a moot point if the baby is dead. I'm sort of concerned that the main fear is getting pulled over. The real issue is if you were in an accident, and they do happen - Would it have been worth the legs if the baby is fatally or seriously injured?
gspencer gspencer 9 years
Actually there's been studies on this very thing (about kids legs who end up scrunched up against the back of the chair) but still either under the weight limit or have the "average" neck strength of a one year old (obviously they didn't use real children, so they need to pick an average), which is why the law is set the way it is. The likely hood of you getting in a really bad forward crash versus really bad rear crash is greater and the force is often greater too. So the broken neck, whiplash prevention is a much bigger concern than your children breaking their legs (which btw, children have excellent bodies and can regrow bones quite amazingly as if they never broke their bones at all). My daughter is over a year old, her feet totally touch the back of the seat, but I'm not turning her until I absolutely need to (probably at around 30 pounds or until another car seats get in the way and hers needs to be forward facing). I've seen those crash test videos of kids facing forward (in a car seat and done correctly) and it's horrifying!
radmama27 radmama27 9 years
I would never do that. The kid either crosses their legs or you get a car seat that accommodates older/larger kids rear facing. My son will be 2 at the end of April, he is the size of a 3 year old and is still rear facing, comfortably.
Gabriela14815884 Gabriela14815884 9 years
I had to do the same thing with my daughter. I was never really worried about getting pulled over because I would just say she was one lol.
ahost ahost 9 years
I probably would break the law if I was absolutely certain it was the best for my child. Someone mentioned there are rearfacing carseats appropriate for taller children. My son is 7 months and quite tall and I think we are going to run into this problem very soon. His feet are already sticking quite a bit out of the seat and it is still one of the seats that are supposed to last until a higher weight. I would love to get a recommendation on a carseat that works well for taller, bigger children!
RobinFabulous RobinFabulous 9 years
My youngest is on the opposite side of this, she was so small that she didn't weigh the 20 pounds at a year. Even now, at almost 3, she's still in a Britax roundabout. She hates it and wants a booster seat, but she doesn't weigh enough to even use a booster with internal straps.
stina829 stina829 9 years
I'd definitely break the law on this one. Sorry, my son comes first. And I agree w/kikidawn, how WOULD the cop know if you were lying or not?
lollypoppers lollypoppers 9 years
I realize this is worst case scenario but would you rather have a son with a broken leg or a broken neck? Also, why couldn't he just cross his legs?
Moms Moms 9 years
kikidawn, that's a good point — an officer would probably have never known had they pulled me over. I called the CHP to inquire about the seat initially and the officer who answered suggested that I show the officer why I moved the seat if I did get pulled over. As far as getting a different carseat, we tried another one and it made no difference.
lady-buttercup lady-buttercup 9 years
My daughter would get sick every time she was in the car when she was in her rear facing seat. I tried to hang in there until she was age 1 and 20 lbs, even bought a different car seat, but by 11 months I had to turn her around. She stopped getting sick once she was forward facing.
Courtney82 Courtney82 9 years
i think it really depends on the situation for obeying the law. I mean it the law is against her safety I would for sure do it. in this case i wouldn't have done it though, the law is setup for safety not comfort. i didn't have a problem with height with my daughter and she is over one and still rear facing.
sofi sofi 9 years
Yeah, I understand because my children were off the charts for height and got big fast, but I think a different chair would work. The age thing is important (as well as the size) because of the neck and back muscle development. Yes, your child might look older, be taller, and weigh more than a typical child of his age, but his muscles haven't developed at that rate, too. I doubt his legs would break but I understand your point. There really are great seats out there to accommodate the biggest and smallest babes. Well, I get that you didn't actually ask for my opinion on your situation so to get to your question- no, I don't think I've broken any laws in the best interest of my children. A mom's got to do what a mom's got to do..... :)
kindo1313 kindo1313 9 years
I did the same thing. My son was just too tall. I had already switched him to an infant/toddler seat when he outgrew the infant one, but he still didn't fit facing backwards. I also don't believe that babies are suddenly strong enough the day they turn one. Some are stronger earlier, others later. That said, I know rear-facing is safer even beyond the age of one, but it just didn't work for us past 10 1/2 months old.
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
would his legs have fit if he was in another car seat? i think the backward facing thing is to protect babies necks, which are not stable the way they are in older children. so their thinking is that the legs might break but the neck won't if there is big impact.
kikidawn kikidawn 9 years
You bet that I would break the law if I needed to do something to protect my kids. Question though... how would the cop (if you were pulled over) even know your child is under 1 year old if he looks older than his age? How does that even work? I mean I know moms don't carry around birth certificates ... so what is the policeman going to do accuse you of lying? Seriously... I've never encountered a situation like that (I have no kids) so I don't know anything about what procedure is.
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