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When Should You Replace Your Child’s Car Seat?

The best way to keep yourself and others safe in your vehicle is to ensure that everyone is properly secured. For adults, that means always buckling up. For kids, it means making sure they’re in the right seat and in the right place in your vehicle. Young children are the safest when they’re secured in car seats, but the same car seat won’t protect them for their entire childhoods.

Knowing when to replace your child’s car seat is important, as waiting too long can put them at increased risk of injuries or death in a crash. But many parents don’t know when to replace car seats, and they may continue using car seats that no longer provide adequate protection.

Here’s what to know about replacing your child’s car seat and what situations call for doing so.

When They Outgrow It

There are three types of seats specifically designed for children: rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats.

Rear-facing car seats are designed for newborns and infants. Some smaller children should continue riding in them well after their first birthdays. Rear-facing car seats provide the best protection for newborns and infants. As babies grow, newborn inserts can be removed, providing a more comfortable fit.

When children are between 2 and 4 years old, they can transition to forward-facing car seats once they outgrow their rear-facing infant car seats. These car seats should remain in the back seats of vehicles and should continue to be used until children are at least 5 years old.

Upon outgrowing forward-facing car seats, children can transition to booster seats. These seats are used to make seat belts fit properly, and they should always be placed in the backseat.

Finally, when children outgrow booster seats and seat belts begin to fit them properly, they can ride without the use of any special seats. However, they should continue riding in the backseat until they’re at least 13 years old due to the risks they face from airbags.

If It Becomes Damaged

Car seats should also be replaced if they’re damaged in a crash. Car seats provide the best possible protection for children during accidents, but they’re considered “single-use only.” That means that any impact absorbed by a car seat renders it much less effective at protecting children in future crashes.

Note that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that car seats CAN be reused after minor fender benders. However, crashes that involve injuries, require a vehicle to be towed, that cause airbags to be deployed, or that damage either the seat or the door nearest the seat necessitate replacing the car seat.

If It Expires or Becomes Too Worn

Car seats are expensive. Because of that, many families may re-use car seats from one child to the next, or they may use car seats that were given to them by parents whose children have outgrown them. However, it’s important to note that car seats can expire—typically six years after purchase or manufacture. In some cases, car seats can become obsolete due to advances in safety features, or they may simply become too worn out to provide adequate protection.

Check the manual of your child’s car seat to determine how long it should be used for. And if you receive a car seat as a gift from friends or family, inspect it thoroughly for signs of wear and tear. Car seats shouldn’t be used if straps or buckles are broken or frayed.

If It Gets Recalled

Unfortunately, not all car seats are safe, even when they’re brand new. Some car seats put children at an elevated risk of injury because of design flaws or defective components. The NHTSA maintains a database of recalled car seats dating back to 10 years ago. Whether you’ve just purchased a new car seat, are re-using a car seat for another child, or were gifted a car seat, it’s important to reference this database to ensure it hasn’t been recalled.

Not all recalls are safety-related, but many are. If you find out that your child’s car seat has been recalled for safety reasons, you should stop using it immediately. Manufacturers of recalled car seats will often issue full refunds or replace them for free.

We Help Innocent Auto Accident Victims Get Maximum Compensation

Even the most well-secured children and adults can suffer serious injuries in crashes. And in many cases, those crashes are caused by negligent drivers. At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, it’s our job to help auto accident victims get the money they’re owed for their medical bills, lost wages, and more. Contact us today for a free consultation if you or your child was injured in a preventable crash.