If we are involved in a car accident, it is only normal to be ‘shaken up’. The last thing that most parents are going to worry about is replacing their child’s car seat. Most parents are probably just thankful that nothing serious happened and are busy dealing with insurance. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that we SHOULD be more concerned about replacing these car seat.
The position of the NHTSA On Child Safety Seats
The NHTSA recommends that parents replace their child safety seats after being involved in a moderate to severe crash. This is the best and only way to ensure a high level of crash protection for children on board. The only time that the NHTSA suggests a car seat should not automatically be replaced is after a minor crash, but they do recommend that parents inspect the car seat to determine for themselves whether these car seats may need replacing.
Looking at what NHTSA defines as a ‘minor crash’
Fortunately, the NHTSA has some clear instructions on what does and does not constitute a minor crash. According to the NHTSA, only those crashes that meet ALL of the following criteria are ‘minor crashes’:
- There is no visible damage to the safety seat
- The air bags (if present) did not deploy
- There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants
- The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged
- It was possible to drive the vehicle away from the crash site
Why you need to maintain your child safety seat
Some parents or guardians might not appreciate the importance of adhering to these safety regulations. These are some of the most important factors that might explain the situation:
- Studies have shown that a child safety seat is able to withstand minor crashes without suffering any documented degradation in subsequent performances.
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) used dummies simulating children ages six months to three years with 30 mph vehicle crash tests. The IIHS used different child restraint systems. While most of the child seats did sustain minor damage (strain whitening on the plastic shell or chest clip, small cracks in the hard plastic shell, frayed webbing), only a single dummy did not remain secure doing testing. The IIHS then used four of the damaged seats with further 30 mph crash tests. The seats met all federal standards, despite additional minor damage being observed in subsequent tests
By making it clear when child seat replacement is necessary, it might help reduce the number of people who spend money on an unnecessary replacement, the number of children who do not have a child seat if a seat was not replaced, and will hopefully reduce the number of accidents attributed to a faulty child safety seat being used again.
Keep in mind that most car seat manufacturers recommend that you replace the seat after an accident, even if there is no clear damage to the seat itself. The force and impact of the accident might cause unseen structural damage to the car seat that may prohibit the seat from properly functioning in the event of another crash or a sudden stop.