Is your car seat OK to use after a crash?

Two recent serious car accidents in our community in the past several weeks – one involving a train and the other related to high speed – have affirmed that car seats do indeed save lives. Most likely, the car seats that saved those two children’s lives now will need to be replaced. But what if the crash was less severe? How can you tell if the car seat still is usable or needs to be replaced?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that child safety seats should be replaced following a moderate or severe crash in order to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for child passengers. Child safety seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash. Minor crashes are those that meet all of the following criteria:

  • The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
  • The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged.
  • There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants.
  • The air bags (if present) did not deploy.
  • There is no visible damage to the safety seat.

I recommend parents and caregivers check with their child seat manufacturer with regard to their child restraint. Many car seat manufacturers recommend child safety seats be replaced if they have been involved in a car crash. Look in the car seat owner’s manual for your manufacturer’s statement of their policy. And, it’s good to know that some insurance carriers may reimburse for the replacement of a new car seat if it was in a crash. Check with your insurance carrier handling the crash for more details.

If it turns out you need to buy a new car seat, please make sure it’s installed correctly. Go to or to find the nearest car seat check event or fitting station near you.

– Jane Howard, injury prevention event coordinator, Children’s Health Education Center

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