Replacing a car seat after a crash is a crucial step in ensuring the continued safety of child passengers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides clear guidelines on when to replace car seats following an accident.
The NHTSA categorizes car crashes into two groups: minor and moderate to severe. Their guidelines define minor crashes as meeting all of the following criteria:
1: Able to drive the vehicle
The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site. If a car is drivable post-accident, it suggests that the impact was relatively low and may not have compromised the integrity of the car seat.
2: Undamaged door by the car seat
The vehicle door nearest the car seat wasn’t damaged. The absence of damage to the door closest to the car seat is a good indicator that it wasn’t subjected to severe forces during the crash.
3: No serious injuries in the vehicle
None of the passengers in the vehicle suffered any injuries in the crash. If all occupants of the vehicle emerged uninjured, it’s likely that the crash impact was minor.
4: Undeployed airbags
Airbag deployment is typically associated with more significant impacts. If the airbags didn’t deploy, this suggests that the crash was of lower severity, potentially leaving the car seat unharmed.
If any one of these criteria is not met, it’s recommended to replace the car seat because it may have been structurally weakened, even if the damage is not visible. It’s also important to consult the car seat manufacturer’s guidelines in addition to the NHTSA criteria.