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Car Seat Safety

Just as you should never ride in a car without using your seatbelt, likewise as a parent you should never allow your child to ride in a vehicle without a proper child safety seat installed.  The safety features in a car are designed for an average sized adult, and are simply not capable of protecting the much smaller body of a child in the event of an accident.

Getting The Right Car Seat

The right car seat for your child is dependent on their physical size and not just their age.  Initially, your child will start out in a rear-facing infant seat.  These are the bassinet-style seats with the handles that you have likely seen parents carrying a baby in at some point.  Sized properly for newborns and small babies, these seats are beneficial because they completely surround the child: in the event of a crash the rigid shell of the seat will move with the child, helping to protect their neck and spine from injury.  Many of these are sold as a “system”—the bottom of the seat will latch into bases that attach to the car, allowing parents to purchase multiple bases for different vehicles while only needing the one actual car seat (the most expensive component).  In addition, within brands, most seats are compatible with stroller frames, allowing the ease of moving the child from car to stroller without having to remove them from the seat.  When purchasing a “system,” it can often be helpful to find the stroller that fits your needs the best, then select a compatible car seat to go with it—you will be spending much more time interacting with the stroller than the car seat, so you should be sure that it is something you are happy with.

After your child outgrows the rear facing infant seat it will be time to upgrade to a front-facing car seat.  These are the “racing bucket” seats that you have probably noticed in people’s cars and is often what people think of when you mention a “car seat”.  Finally, once a child outgrows the forward-facing seat, parents should get a booster seat for until their child is physically large enough to safely use a car’s seatbelt as an adult would.  Many parents may debate skipping this stage, but this is a very bad idea: if a seatbelt does not “fall” correctly on a person’s body they can cause severe injury or even death during an accident.  Many manufacturers produce “convertible” seats that can be reconfigured as your child grows, allowing one seat to be used during all three stages, and this is something a new parent should ask about when shopping for car seats to determine if that option is right for them.

Installing A Car Seat

Installing a car seat used to be a complex ordeal to undertake, but times have changed.  The federal government mandated the inclusion of a universal mounting system called the LATCH to provide safe and accessible mounting points in modern vehicles.  However, if you are at all unsure if your car seat is installed correctly, almost every law enforcement, fire department or hospital facility in the country has trained personnel on staff that will be happy to assist or check to be sure that your child will be safe in the event of an accident.

Buying A Used Car Seat

In a word—don’t.  There are two significant dangers to used car seats.  First, just like a motorcycle helmet or your car’s seatbelt, a car seat is a one-use product, and you have no guarantee that it has not been involved in a wreck.  During an accident the materials that it is made out of are designed to be damaged in order to dissipate the forces of a collision.  While it may look to be undamaged, the impact foam will have been degraded and the plastic shell may have even developed stress fractures.  After this point, it will no longer provide as much protection as it would have when new, and may no longer be safe.  A good rule of thumb is that if the airbags deployed in an accident you should replace the car seat if it was in use.  (Likewise with seatbelts—seatbelts work by the material stretching to absorb impact: there is no way of knowing if they will protect adequately a second time.  That’s why many sanctioning bodies for motorsports won’t allow their reuse after a wreck.)

Secondly, and again like motorcycle helmets (which use the same materials), car seats have an expiration date.  Over time the foam padding and even the plastics will degrade and no longer provide the required levels of protection.  (Car seats are typically rated for six years from date of manufacture.)  All car seats will have a date of manufacture or expiration date stamped on them, and it’s a good practice to check the date before putting a car seat into service.

Let Us Assist You Today

Your child’s car seat is the most important investment we hope you will never need.  But if you or someone you love has been in a car wreck, rest assured that the skilled Miami legal team at the office of Alan Goldfarb, P.A. will be there to help you on your path to recovery.  Contact a representative today at 305-371-3111 or online to discuss your situation.

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