Benefits of a Load Leg Car Seat – Safest Car Seats
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Before we discuss the benefits of a load leg car seat, we should find out exactly what a load leg car seat is. Basically, a load leg on a car seat is a metal support leg which comes from the edge of the base at the rear of a car seat and rests on the floor of your vehicle.
The point of the leg is to reduce the force on a baby’s head and neck should there be an accident or sharp stop. This helps to protect the brain and spine of a baby. You will often find these types of seats in Europe, but they are becoming increasingly popular in North America too.
How Does a Load Leg Car Seat Work?
When your car stops suddenly, there is a lot of force put on the bodies which are in the vehicle. For infants and babies, this force can have long-lasting damage.
Car seats are designed to protect a baby when they are in the seat by stopping forces from acting on the weakest parts of a baby's body and applying any remaining forces to the strongest parts of a baby’s body, namely the back. The aim of a load leg car seat is to do this a lot better.
If you ever happen to be in a car crash or near miss, the sudden stop will put a lot of force on moveable objects in the car.
Reducing Damaging Forces on Your Baby's Delicate Body
If you are in a forward-facing crash, then a backward-facing car seat will move towards the front of your vehicle. Due to the way a car seat is strapped into the chair, the car seat will also rotate down towards the floor of the vehicle. As the car seat reclines, the child inside is forced upwards in the car seat, applying unnecessary forces to the neck and spine. A load leg helps to combat this.
As the load leg is connected from the base of the car seat to the floor of the vehicle, the rotation is reduced. This reduces how much the car seat rotates in the chair, and how much the child slides upwards in the car seat. The less the child slides, the less pressure and force is applied to the weak areas of a baby’s body.
More of the force of the crash is applied to the back of the car seat instead of becoming a rotational force in the car seat. This means that more of the pressure of the crash is applied to a baby’s back instead of their neck and shoulders.
Crash Tests Show Benefits of a Load Leg on an Infant Car Seat
Tests have shown that using this kind of car seat, when compared to regular car seats, results in less trauma to a baby and specifically fewer head injuries.
In frontal crashes, you also have the rebound to worry about. Again, load leg car seats help with this problem. You will find that in frontal car crashes, once the car seat has stopped moving towards the front of the vehicle, it will rebound towards the rear of the vehicle. Anti-rebound devices limit how much rebound there is. With less rebound, there is less chance of a baby’s head striking the seat in a forward or backward motion.
In car seats without a load leg, a frontal crash will result in the car seat moving forward toward the front of the vehicle before rebounding back. The further forward it moves, the more distance it has to cover on the way back. The more distance it travels, the more trauma it will cause to a head and neck.
A load leg stops the car seat from moving forward rotationally during a crash. This means that the car seat does not have as far to travel back. Less distance means that the head and neck are protected more.
How Do I Fit a Load Leg?
If you want to bring the best protection to your child, then a load leg car seat is the way to go. The only question is how to install it. When you have your car seat in place, the base of the seat should rest flush against the seat of your vehicle while the load leg should rest on the floor.
Currently, load leg car seats are not a required feature in the US, so there may be some vehicle features which prevent you from installing one. If you find that you cannot use the load leg, you may have to fold it under the base and not use it.
One such feature which may prevent you from using the load leg is an uneven floor. Some vehicles have a hump on the floor in front of the rear seats or middle seats. If the floor is not level, then you will not be able to use the load leg.
One of our favourite trusted resources when it comes to car seats, the Car Seat Lady shows us in the video below how to install the Nuna Pipa car seat with its extendable load leg.
Which Car Seats feature a Load Leg?
We've reviewed the latest models of child car seat across all the top brands and have identified the following seats that feature a load leg:
Consumer Reports agree that a car seat with a load leg is far safer than one without. Regular car seats will protect your child, but load leg car seats will protect your child more. With more testing being done on car seats with leg loads, it is becoming obvious that they are the way to go. When the reports are released annually, you will find that there are more and more load leg car seats making their way into the list.
Even from reading this short article, it is easy to see the benefits of a load leg car seat. The main forces of a car crash involve the car seat moving towards the front of the vehicle, rotating, and moving towards the rear of the vehicle. A load leg car seat will deal with all three causes of force.
The bar will stop the seat from moving forward as much, will stop the seat from rotating, and, as a consequence, will not have as much distance to travel back over. A load leg car seat will protect your child.
Now that we've convinced you on the benefits of a load leg, why not check out our reviews of two of our Top Rated Car Seats that include this excellent safety feature: the Cybex Aton and the Nuna Pipa.