There are lots of things I hope never happen to my children or my family. One of those is a car crash. Even if it’s not severe, it’s, at the very least, inconvenient and stressful. Especially if it means I’m stranded somewhere with three kids waiting for a tow truck to show up. And, what do I do when it arrives? Would I simply move my kids’ car seats to the tow truck? I guess if the car seats were visibly damaged that wouldn’t even be an option. Great, more headaches trying to find a tow truck driver who drives around with 3 car seats in his cab. But, what if all the car seats look alright? Would I still use them or get new ones?
I’ve read a lot of blogs and social media posts related to replacing child car seats following a vehicle collision. They almost always say that you should always replace a car seat following any kind of car crash, no matter how minor, and this is usually because, they’ve reasoned, the plastic on the car seat gets stressed in a car crash and it’s solidity may be compromised. At first, this seemed logical to me. Yes, plastic can get stressed and worn, especially if the car seat has been sitting over the summer in a hot car. The mass majority of parents saying that car seat replacement is absolutely necessary following a crash must be correct.
But, one day I learned from a friend that there’s actually a national safety standard concerning this very thing. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), who has basically spent the past 40 or so years researching ways to make traveling safer, a child’s safety seat should be replaced if it’s been involved in a moderate to severe crash. But, “Car seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash.”
What qualifies a crash as a minor? If it meets ALL of the following:
1) The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
2) The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged.
3) None of the passengers in the vehicle sustained any injuries in the crash.
4) If the vehicle has air bags, the air bags did not deploy during the crash; and
5) There is no visible damage to the car seat.
Let me tell you from my own experience of driving around with three children in car seats, that my children’s car seats probably endure more stress in their lifetime from my own children’s use of them than they would in a minor crash. I mean, playing “bumper car” with their seats is one of my kids’ favorite traveling games. And there’s the constant wiggling and kicking the car seat with their feet, and, for my bigger two who sit in booster seats, pushing against the car seat with their feet is their favorite way to loosen their seat belt or reposition their booty. Also, a car seat makes a great shield when a sibling is attacking you with vicious punches or kicks.
I’m grateful we have car seats today which have been tested for effectiveness in car crashes. While looking for photos for this blog post, I found some great examples of times when parents weren’t as concerned about the effectiveness of their child’s car seat (or if their child even had a car seat). I’m not trying to fault parents of any generation- but it is amusing to see the novelties of the past which contrast so strikingly with the hyper-concern over safety today.
Read the caption on this one. Genius.