If you have been involved in a car crash and had a child restrained in a child car seat, the seat may need to be replaced. In April 2004, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced changes to the agency’s recommendations about replacing child safety seats following a crash. NHTSA explains:
“The change was made to ensure parents or caregivers continue to correctly restrain their children following a minor crash and to reduce the burden of unnecessary child safety seat replacement.”
NHTSA continues to advise parents and caregivers that child safety seats should be replaced if they have been involved in a moderate or severe crash.
A crash is minor — and the seat involved in it is safe for reuse — if it meets all of the following criteria:
- A visual inspection of the child safety seat, including inspection under any easily movable seat padding, does not reveal any cracks or deformation that might have been caused by the crash.
- The vehicle in which the child safety seat was installed was capable of being driven from the crash scene.
- The vehicle door nearest the child safety seat was undamaged.
- There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants.
- The air bags (if any) did not deploy.
Crashes that meet all of these criteria are much less severe than the dynamic test used in compliance tests of FMVSS 213 “Child Restraint Systems”, and are highly unlikely to affect future child safety seat performance. Therefore, parents and caregivers can be confident that child restraints involved in these minor crashes will continue to provide a high level of protection.
NHTSA recommend parents and caregivers check with their child seat manufacturer with regard to performance, operation, and installation of their child restraint.
Most car seat instruction booklets continue to recommend child safety seats be replaced if they have been involved in a car crash, regardless if they are in the seat or not. Look in the car seat owner’s manual for your manufacturer’s statement of their policy.
Most insurance carriers will reimburse you for the replacement of a new car seat if it was in a crash. Check with the insurance carrier handling the accident for more details as all policies are different.