Mythbusting: Legs Bent or Feet Touching the Backseat When Rear-Facing is Dangerous


Welcome to our ongoing Mythbusting Series where we explore common myths regarding kids and carseats.

Myth: My child’s legs will be injured in a crash if their feet are touching the back of the seat or if their legs are bent 

This is a common and very persistent myth. Child Passenger Safety Technicians spend a lot of time talking to parents about this concern.

In reality, during a frontal crash (the most common type of crash), the child’s legs will fly up and away from the back seat as the carseat rotates downward. It’s also much more important to protect the head, neck and spinal cord in a crash which is exactly what rear-facing carseats do so well.

If you’re still not convinced – there is this study by CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) that looked at injuries to children ages 1 – 4 who were hurt in crashes and leg injuries were rare for those kids in rear-facing seats. However, injuries to the lower extremity region were the second most common type of injury for the kids in forward-facing seats. That’s because the legs of a child in a forward-facing seat are thrown forward and often hit the hard center console or the back of the front seat.

Injuries below the knee were the most common, particularly to the tibia/fibula, and they most often occurred due to interaction with the vehicle seatback in front of the child’s seating position.

The video below is part of the curriculum for training new Child Passenger Safety Technicians. In the video, Dr. Marilyn Bull, MD, outlines the reasons why rear-facing is so important and also addresses the concerns many parents have about older children with longer legs.

We also need to address the issue of comfort since that’s another big hang-up that adults seem to have with older kids. The reality is that while *we* might not be happy if we had to sit this way for prolonged periods, kids will always find a way to make themselves comfortable. They might sit “criss-cross applesauce”, or they might stretch their legs straight out and prop them up, or they might even dangle them over the sides of the carseat. Regardless of how they make themselves comfortable – they will always find a way.

This Myth is Definitely BUSTED.

One final point to make is that kids don’t wake up one morning with an extra 5″ of legs. Every day is the same as yesterday except maybe you’re a millimeter taller today. Kids don’t notice growing – and when they grow enough to warrant a shift in how they position their legs when sitting rear-facing, they will make the adjustment without even thinking about it.

Do I look uncomfortable

Check out more of CSB’s popular Mythbusting series:

You can damage your car seat by installing it too tightly

3-Across & Adjacent Car Seat Installations

Rear-facing car seats can’t touch front vehicle seats

Legs bent or feet touching the backseat when rear-facing is dangerous

We’re all going to die in an airplane crash, so using a carseat is pointless

A 5-point harness is safer than a booster seat for older kids

Your pediatrician is a car seat expert

You need an infant carseat (RFO) for a newborn

LATCH is safer than a seat belt installation

Backseat baby mirrors are deadly projectiles

Vehicle headrests are meant to break vehicle windows


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