Blog: After a crash: How to make sure your car seat is still safe
By: Katherine Hutka, Health Promotion Specialist, Child Safety Link
Collisions happen in all types of weather and road conditions, but icy or snow-covered roads can mean an increase in the number of families who experience a minor crash. Families call us to ask what next steps they should take to make sure that their children are protected after a crash.
Find information about what do immediately after a crash happens here at this link: http://www.ibc.ca/mb/auto/crisis-management/crash
This blog is going to primarily focus on the steps to take once you have arrived home from the scene of a minor collision.
We are going to lay out the steps to take to make sure your child passengers are safe on their next ride. The good news is that car seats work. Although not all crashes are survivable, many are. We know that a properly used car seat or booster seat can reduce the risk of injury and death up to by 71%. Car seats and booster seats save lives. We also know that in Canada, collisions are a leading cause of death to children. We want to make sure our children are protected in the event of another collision.
Here are some commonly asked questions we get from parents, grandparents, and caregivers after a crash:
Q: Do I need to replace my car seat after a crash?
A: You should always replace your car seat if it has been involved in a serious collision. The stress on the seat from the forces of the crash may mean that your car seat may not offer the same level of protection in a second crash. Even if you cannot see any damage, the plastic, metal and webbing on your car seat may have been weakened.
Q: What about a minor crash? Do I have to replace my child’s seat after a minor crash?
A: This is where the answer gets more complicated because it depends on the manufacturer that made your seat.
Some car seat manufacturers recommend replacing your car seat after any crash, even a minor crash. The list of manufacturers who always recommend replacement include common brands such as Baby Trend, Evenflo, Graco, and Harmony.
Other manufacturers recommend replacement unless the situation meets all of the criteria to be labeled as a “Minor Crash”. Manufacturers who currently follow these guidelines include Britax, Cosco, Maxi Cosi, and Safety 1st.
A minor crash is one where ALL criteria below are met:
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from crash site.
- The vehicle door nearest to the child’s seat was undamaged.
- There were no injuries to any vehicle occupants.
- The airbags did not deploy or open.
- There is no visible damage to the car seat or booster seat.
Remember that, by their definition, a minor crash must meet all of the points above. If it doesn’t meet any one point, you need to replace your seat. If you have any doubts about the safety of your seat after a crash, you should replace it. Note that Transport Canada recommends that you always replace your car seat after any collision, even a minor one.
Q: How do I know if my car seat must be replaced after a minor crash?
A: It’s best to get this information directly from the source; your car seat manufacturer. You can find this information in your car seat manual, on the manufacturer’s website, or by calling them to ask. You will find a collection of Canadian manufacturer’s websites at this link: https://www.cpsac.org/caregiver-resources/
Q: If it’s not safe to use my car seat after a crash, how can I safely transport my child home from the scene of a collision?
A: Make the best decision that you can in the moment. First responders may choose to use the child’s own car seat as a stable way to transport a child who may be injured. If a child is uninjured, it may or it may not be possible for someone to bring another car seat for the child who needs to be safely transported from the scene.
Q: What if my child wasn’t in the car seat at the time of the crash? Do I have to replace an unoccupied car seat or booster seat?
A: The guidelines for whether to replace a car seat or booster seat are the same if the child was in the seat or if the seat was in the car without your child at the time of a crash.
Q: What about when I hit my green bin backing out of the driveway? Is this considered a crash? Do I need to replace my seat?
A: Only you can determine what is or is not a crash. If you are unsure whether you experienced a crash, ask your insurance provider or your car seat manufacturer for more guidance.
Q: Will my car insurance cover the cost to replace my car seat?
A: This depends on the type of insurance and reason for the crash. In many cases, the insurance company will cover the cost of a replacement seat.
Q: What should I do with my crashed or unsafe car seat?
A: There are no car seat recycling programs in Atlantic Canada at this time. You should destroy the car seat in ways that make it obvious the car seat is unsafe so that no other family will find it and try to use it for their child. Cut the straps, remove the cover, and write: “Crashed: Do not use!” on the seat. If you can, place it on the curb just before pickup or in a black garbage bag.
Q: Where can I find more information about whether or not my car seat is safe to use or what is the right seat for my child?
You can find checklists, videos and fact sheets at this link: https://childsafetylink.ca/child-passenger-safety/car-seat-safety-resources/
You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-288-1388 (toll-free in Atlantic Canada) with any questions you have.
Finally, it’s normal to experience a lot of different feelings after you’ve been involved in a collision. You may feel shaken up, or experience feelings of anger, guilt, confusion, numbness… or you may feel pretty normal. All feelings are a normal reaction to an unexpected and shocking or traumatic event. These feelings are expected and will fade as time passes. If these feelings get stronger or last for a longer time, please reach out to your family doctor, emergency room or local mental health supports. Find more information here: