A guide to car seats

Confusion cleared: a guide to car seats and crashes By Kyle Gaines

For the past nine years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of families who have visited St. Charles County Ambulance District [SCCAD] for assistance installing a child safety seat in vehicle.  During the course of these visits, the question of whether a seat can be used after a car crash frequently arises.

According to a 2011 article published by Forbes, the average person is involved in three to four motor vehicle accidents over his or her driving lifetime.  If you are a parent, grandparent or child care provider, you may have child safety seats installed in your vehicle at the time of one (or more) of these crashes. 

Car seat use following crashes is a point of confusion for many.  As is the case with many topics, there are a wide variety of opinions just a click away on blogs, websites and other recesses of the internet.  For more definitive, fact-based insight, I recommend looking to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – NHTSA for short.

NHTSA recommends replacement of child safety seats following moderate or major motor vehicle crashes, but says that car seats are generally safe to use after a minor accident.  The organization defines minor crashes as those that meet all of the following criteria:

  • Vehicle was able to be driven away from crash site.
  • Vehicle door closest to car seat was undamaged.
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat.
  • There were no injuries to vehicle occupants.
  • No air bags deployed.

Also important for drivers to note is the fact that the above criteria are in play regardless of whether a child is actually riding in the car seat at the time of an accident.  A seat can still sustain damage in an accident even if it is unoccupied.  With infant carrier-style seats, the rules apply not only to the removable seat, but the base it clicks into as well.

In the event of an accident, most insurance companies will cover the replacement cost of a new child safety seat, but this would be a great point to confirm with your agent as policies can differ.  For further information on the replacement criteria, visit safercar.gov.  If you’d like assistance installing your child’s safety seat, contact SCCAD at 636-344-7600.

Kyle Gaines is Director of Community Relations for the St. Charles County Ambulance District.