How do you know if you need to replace your car seats if you are in a crash?
When a vehicle is in a crash, car seats can be unsafe to use afterward, even if they were not in use at the time. If you are unsure if your seats need to be replaced, you can contact your car seat manufacturer or use the position statement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for guidance.
NHTSA recommends always replacing seats after a moderate to severe crash. In a minor crash, they say that seats do not necessarily need to be replaced. A crash is considered minor if ALL of the following criteria are met:
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
- The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged;
- There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants;
- The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
- There is no visible damage to the safety seat
Additionally, check your car seat manual to see if specifies when seats need to be replaced after a crash. Some seats offer special features that let you know when a seat has been damaged.
If the cost of replacing a seat is concerning, ask your car insurance agent if your policy will cover the cost of a replacement car seat. Most do.
When you dispose of your damaged car seat, remove the padding, cut the harness straps and write on the plastic shell “In a crash, do not use” prior to putting it in the trash. You could also contact your local recycling center to see if they take car seats, or ask the Fire Department if they could use them during training. It is highly recommended that you do not purchase used car seats from re-sale shops or Mom-to-Mom sales because you cannot verify the history of the seat, including whether or not it was accident free.
—Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System