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Car Seat Safety

Car seats and booster seats are available to provide protection for children and infants in the event of a crash, yet somehow, car crashes are one of the leading causes of death for children ages 1 to 13. For this reason, we at CBS Collision cannot stress enough the importance of choosing the right car seat and buckling your child in the seat correctly each and every time.

Finding the Right Car Seat

It is important to note that not all car seats fit in all vehicles. You will want to test the car seat you want to buy to ensure it has a good fit inside your vehicle. When it comes to finding the right car seat for your child, you basically have four categories to choose from, based on your child’s current size and age:

  • Rear-Facing Car Seat- This is the best seat for a young child to use It has a harness and in the event of a crash, it cradles and pads your child’s head to reduce the stress to the child’s neck and spinal cord, which are extremely fragile at a young age. These are designed more for newborns and small babies. Typically, babies outgrow their infant or rear-facing car seat by 8 or 9 months. As this happens, you will need to look into a convertible or all-in-one car seat and use it in a rear-facing manner. Any child under the age of 3 actually needs to be in a rear-facing car seat. This is the best way to keep him or her safe.
  • Forward-Facing Car Seat- This seat has a harness and tether that will limit your child’s forward movement in the event of a crash. You’ll want to keep your child in a forward-facing car seat from around 4-7 years. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing harness, it’s time to travel in the booster seat.
  • Booster Seat- This seat sits only under your child. It positions the child so that the seatbelt straps across the stronger parts of the child’s body. You’ll want to keep your child in this from 8-12 years, or until the child is big enough to sit where the seat belt fits him or her properly. The shoulder belt should cross snuggly across one shoulder and chest and not cross anywhere near the neck. If it does, your child is not ready to ride without the booster seat.

Car Seat Recommendations

There are a ton of available options on the market when it comes to car seats. We recommend using NHTSA’s car seat recommendation list. Here are a few of our takeaways:

  • Select your child’s car seat, based on their age and size, that also fits in your vehicle and use this car seat every time
  • You’ll want to always refer to the specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions, as these may vary from seat to seat.
  • Keep your child in the car seat as long as possible. Don’t rush to “move up” to the next car seat. As long as they are still within the height and weight requirements, keep them in that seat.
  • Your child belongs in the back seat until at least age 12.

Car Seats After a Crash

You child’s car seat did an excellent job protecting them during your most recent vehicle accident. But what do you do with the car seat now? The actions you’ll take with respect to your child’s car seat will depend on the severity of the accident. The older recommendation was to always replace the car seat after an accident, no matter how minor. However, this standard has changed and we now know that the car seat may not have to be replaced every time.

NHTSA Recommendations for Car Seat Re-Use

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers recommendations on when they believe you’ll need to replace a car seat after an incident. The overall takeaway was that replacement is needed for any moderate to severe crash but not for minor crashes. These criteria need to be met in order for your auto collision to be considered “minor”:

  • You were able to drive away from the crash location. If your vehicle has to be towed or helped in any way, you will also need to replace the car seat.
  • The door closest to the car seat was unharmed. If your car has a third row and the car seat was installed there, then the closest door would either be the second-row door or the back door.
  • No one in the vehicle was injured in any way.
  • None of the airbags deployed. This includes ANY airbags: front, side, seatbelt, side, or knee bolster.
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat. There are no cracks, stretched webbing, no broken stitching, stress marks, or broken plastic pieces.

If your vehicle and car seat do not meet all five of the listed criteria, your car seat should be replaced. It doesn’t matter if a child was riding in the seat or not. The empty car seat still has to withstand the crash forces at the belt path. The force of your accident and the car seat moving forward and being held back by the seat belt or latch belt can cause damage that may make the car seat less effective and thus less safe for the next accident if there is one. Some car seat manufacturers state in their user instruction manual that their specific car seats should be replaced EVERY TIME after ANY crash, regardless of how minor the accident was. The manufacturer’s instructions take precedence over any other agency suggestions, so keep that in mind when purchasing a car seat. Following the manufacturer’s instructions is important, not only for safety reasons but also for warranties, as well. If the manufacturer says to replace it after a wreck, and the car seat is not replaced, any further warranty related work that would have been covered, will not be. This is classified as “misuse of the product”, which voids the warranty.

Car Seat Inspections

Just because a belief is popular, doesn’t always mean it is correct. It’s a very common belief to think you can take the car seat to the fire or police station and have it inspected after a crash. Yes, you absolutely can. However, crash damage is not always visible to the naked eye. There are x-rays and scanners that will detect hidden damage but the costs of these tests are more expensive than a new car seat. Without an x-ray, no one should be able to visibly deem a car seat’s safety.

Replacing Car Seats

After a moderate to a severe car wreck, replace your child’s car seat with the newer model. You can talk to your insurance company about being reimbursed for your car seats. Since having a safe car seat is a legal requirement in every state, insurance should pay the entire cost of a new car seat. Some insurance companies may try to prorate the cost of a car seat, based on the age of the damaged car seat. Prorated compensation has been deemed unacceptable since it is not safe to purchase an older, or used car seat for your child. One reason the NHTSA recommendation was changed was due to the concern about the expense of replacement. Parents may not be able to afford a new car seat to replace the older one and may instead buy a used car seat. There is really no way to know whether a used car seat had been in a similar or even worse auto accident previously.

Conclusion

In general, we at CBS Collision believe that a car seat is meant to be a one-time use product. What we mean here is, that your child’s car seat was meant to protect your child through one crash, and one crash only, anything more is playing with fire, and you DO NOT want to take risks when it comes to your child’s safety. Once your child’s car seat has done its job, be sure to look at the NHTSA’s guidelines, along with the manufacturer’s instructions to determine whether or not it is safe to continue to use the car seat. Your little one’s protection is the top priority. CBS Collision is a full-service collision repair shop capable of repairing any type of vehicle. CBS Collision specializes in auto body repair and painting, hail damage repair, paintless dent repair, auto detailing, glass repair and glass replacement. Don’t let your car be a roadblock for you. Get in touch with CBS Collision today. For your convenience, CBS Collision has three locations ready to serve you, or you can use the estimate tool to send photos straight to CBS Collision for your estimate.