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When not to replace a child’s car seat after a collision

From your smartphone to your sunglasses, you have a few items you always take with you when you drive. Your most precious cargo, though, is your son or daughter. By always strapping your young passenger into a safety-rated car seat, you help keep your child safe. Following a collision, though, you may have to replace the car seat to ensure your son or daughter does not sustain a serious injury in a subsequent car crash. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends replacing a child’s car seat after a moderate or severe collision. You do not necessarily need a new car seat after a minor crash. How do you know whether a crash is minor, though? If all of the following five criteria are true, you can likely continue to use your child’s existing car seat.

1. The car seat has no visible signs of damage 

After any collision, you should inspect your child’s car seat for signs of damage. If you see any, you should replace the car seat immediately. If the seat does not have cracks, breaks or other damage, you may be able to continue using it. Note, however, some damage may be difficult to detect.

2. The vehicle is drivable 

As you likely know, some car accidents result in minimal damage to your vehicle. If you can still drive your car, truck or SUV after a crash, the collision may not have been severe enough to damage your child’s car seat. If you have to call a tow truck, though, you should replace the car seat.

3. Vehicle damage occurred far from the car seat 

In general, the further vehicle damage is from your child’s car seat, the greater the likelihood that the car seat remains in good condition. For example, if your child is in the rear left of the vehicle and the car has damage to the right side of the front end, you may be able to continue to use the car seat.

4. No one in your car sustained an injury 

If you or any of your passengers sustained an injury during the collision, you can likely assume the child’s car seat has sustained damage as well. If everyone walks away from the crash, though, the car seat may be fine.

5. Your car’s airbags did not deploy 

Your car’s manufacturer designed its airbags to deploy under certain conditions to protect both you and your passengers. If your vehicle’s airbag sensors did not cause the airbags to deploy, the crash may not have been sufficiently serious to warrant replacing your child’s car seat.

As mentioned, if all five of the above criteria are met, you may not have to buy a new car seat after an automobile collision. Still, if you have any lingering doubts, you should probably opt for purchasing a replacement.