If you've been in a car crash, you might need to replace your car seats, even if your child wasn't with you! Get all the details to know when and if you need to replace a car seat after an accident.
Last month our friends got into a very bad car accident. They were sitting at a stoplight when a car slammed into their SUV head-on. The other driver was having a seizure and lost control of his car and ended up severely damaging our friends' vehicle to the point that it was deemed a total loss. What's worse is that their two children were in the car with them. Their little girl, age 4 was badly bruised and shaken up, but their 22-month-old son didn't have a scratch on him. Mom and dad were slightly injured and ended up with whiplash, but luckily they all walked away. Since it's Child Passenger Safety Week, I've been thinking a lot about car seats lately and wanted to find out what kind of seats the kids were in. Turns out they were both in Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 seats. I asked her if she chose to replace them with new Graco seats and she said she wasn't aware that she needed to get new seats after an accident. That got me thinking... if I didn't review car seats on this blog and pour over their manuals, would I know that? How many other people don't know that you might need to replace your car seat after a collision? Probably a lot! So, let's talk about what you need to know about car seats use after a car accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets and enforces safety performance standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, including car seats. They also conduct research on driver behavior and traffic safety, to develop the most efficient and effective means of bringing about safety improvements. In effect, the NHTSA sets the tone for what we should or shouldn't do with our child safety seats.
Do you need to replace a car seat after an accident?
Previously, the NHTSA recommended that car seats be replaced after all car crashes. However, NHTSA made a change in the previous policy regarding replacing child safety seats involved in a crash in order to ensure that parents or caregivers continue to correctly restrain their child following a minor crash (they don't want to see kids riding around without a car seat while they're waiting for a replacement) and to reduce the financial burden of unnecessary child safety seat replacement.
The NHTSA now recommends that car seats be replaced following a moderate or severe crash in order to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for child passengers. They do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash.
So, what's considered a minor crash? Minor crashes are those that meet ALL of the following criteria:
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site; AND
- The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged; AND
- There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants; AND
- The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
- There is no visible damage to the safety seat
Evidence that the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat did it's job in protecting this sweet little girl.
In the case of my friends, their car was deemed a total loss, so that's a sure sign that they need new car seats according to the NHTSA. However, even if you're in a minor crash, it's a good idea to check with your car seat's manufacturer to see what their stance is on the safety of your seat after a crash. Some brands, such as Clek, Evenflo, Chicco, and Graco (among others) state that your car seat should be replaced after any kind of accident. Check your manual, and if you don't have it anymore search for an online version, or simply call the manufacturer directly with your make and model number (found on the seat itself).
Will your insurance cover a replacement car seat after an accident?
The good news in all of this is that your automobile insurance company may have a policy in place to replace your car seat(s) if it's involved in a crash. I definitely recommend reaching out to them to see if you qualify for a replacement or reimbursement.
What should you do with your damaged car seat?
If your car seat manufactured doesn't have a recycling program in place, you'll need to dispose of the car seat that was involved in the crash. Be sure to make it unusable, in case someone decides to go dumpster diving and retrieve your damaged seat. Cut the straps and remove anything that can be, like the cover or headrest, to make it unfit for use.
Is this information news to you?
Have you been in an accident and had to replace your car seat(s)?
If you need a new car seat, we've got some helpful reviews for you:
At Viva Veltoro, we love the Britax brand. Check out our post about anti-rebound bars featuring the Britax Boulevard ClickTight, and our post about car seat installation tips featuring the Britax Advocate ClickTight.
We also love Graco baby products. Check out our Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat review, our Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat review, and our Graco SlimFit Convertible Car Seat review. If you've got a little baby, we've also got a Graco infant car seat review. We've also got some Graco products featured in our best baby products of 2017 list.
You should also consider Diono for their narrow seats that you can fit 3 across. We've got full reviews of the Diono Radian RXT, a post about traveling via plane with the Diono Rainier, and why car seats and coats don't mix and the benefits of extended rear-facing featuring the Diono Radian RXT as well.
Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. Image credit: Tomasz Zajda/Dollar Photo Club and Roza/AdobeStock