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As a parent, we want nothing more than to protect our children. From the minute we bring them into this world, we do everything in our power to ensure their safety in every circumstance. With that being said, one of the largest safety hazards we encounter is the car seat our children sit in. There are certain rules we must follow when utilizing car seats, besides installation and usage, that are important to follow to optimize safety.
Today we focus on understanding expiration dates, traveling with a child seat, as well as knowing when a car seat should be retired following an accident or after sustaining damage.
Car Seat Expiration
There is no propaganda surrounding manufacturers issuing expiration dates on their car seats. It’s all about keeping your baby safe. Here are valid arguments as to why we should be following those car seat expiration dates.
1. Technology and Safety Standard Changes
Technology is always improving and because of that, new safety features are added or improved upon on car seats from all different manufacturers. There are also new safety standards being implemented to ensure that car seats are staying up to safety code and ensuring our children’s safety. This is important information to know because if a car seat surpasses its expiration date, you could be putting your child at risk due to new technology that your car seat doesn’t have.
2. Materials Wear Down with Use
Like any product, materials will wear down over time with frequent use. The fact that a car seat is being utilized every time travel is involved with a child, it’s likely that there is more wear and tear being done to it than one can really understand. Because of this, it’s important to use a car seat within its expiration date to ensure optimal safety.
3. Tested for a Certain Lifespan
Manufacturers only test a car seat for a certain amount of time. Outside of that time, it’s unknown as to how well the car seat will function.
Where can YOU find the Expiration Date?
Locating your car seat’s expiration date is pretty easy once you know where to look. Most manufacturers put the label with the expiration or manufactured date on the base of the car seat. If the label only has the manufactured date on it, it’s important to realize that the average car seat expires six years after its manufactured date.
4. Understanding the Difference between Manufactured Date and Purchase Date
One important thing to keep in mind when shopping for a car seat is that the clock starts ticking the day the car seat is manufactured, NOT the date it is purchased. Don’t get so excited about finding a bargain on a model from last year because it’s sure to have a shortened life compared to its newer counterpart.
Flying with a Car Seat and the Risks Associated
When flying, one must always prepare themselves for the possibility that their luggage will be lost or damaged. Similarly, when flying with a car seat, one must also keep in mind that the car seat may also be damaged or lost during the flight or when it is being loaded or unloaded.
If the car seat is damaged, it’s best to not use it in order to maintain the safety of the child. If the seat is lost, there are some companies who rent car seats out to people in airports. This may be the only option for some, but if one is left only with this choice, it’s important to ask questions. How old is the car seat? Has this car seat been involved in an accident? It’s best to find out these questions before putting your child in it.
Retiring of Car Seats after Expiration or Following an Accident
When it comes to evaluating the safety of a car seat following an accident, it’s wise to reach out to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association (NHTSA). This government agency oversees policies associated with child passenger restraints, and they base their decisions on dates backed by science.
There was a time when the NHTSA advised that car seats involved in traffic accidents had to be replaced, but they have since then revisited the policy and tweaked it. It may not be necessary to replace a car seat depending on the situation in which the seat was involved. Their policy now suggests that any car seat involved in “moderate to severe crashes” be replaced with a new seat in order to ensure the highest level of protection for the child. This is suggested because there really isn’t a sure way to determine the extent of the damage the seat may have sustained during the accident, so rather than risking it, it’s best to invest in a new one for your child’s protection.
How to dispose of your expired Car Seat
There will come a time when a car seat should not be used anymore. So, now what? Do they sit in your basement or attic gathering dust? Here are a few ideas on what to do with them:
- The Great Trade-In Event at Babies “R” Us: Once a year all across the country, Babies “R” Us has an in-store event where parents can bring in their expired car seats to receive discounts or credit towards new items. This event generally takes place at the beginning of the year, so make sure to check with your local Babies “R” Us to ensure you don’t miss out on this event.
- Check out BabyEarthRENEW: When you’re done with your car seat, stroller or highchair, you simply pay shipping costs to get your item to their facility. From there, they send some of the materials such as fabrics to developing countries and the metal, plastic and foam pieces will be used for construction projects. What they can’t use for other purposes, they send to certified recycling centers. What is also awesome about this website is that if the item is deemed in excellent condition, it will be donated to a family who is in need.
- Check with Local Recycling Centers: If the first two options aren’t the way to go for you, it’s a good idea to check with local recycling centers. Most of the time they will recycle the seat for you for a small charge. Make sure to give them a call as some of them may be specific as to what condition the car seat should be in upon arrival.
- Throw it Away (as a last resort): When disposing of your car seat, it’s important to do your due diligence in ensuring other people won’t pick up the seat from the curb for use. By cutting the straps and removing them, it may deter people from taking it. In other words, make it unusable, so that another family isn’t tempted by the thought of scoring a free car seat, that unbeknownst to them is no longer safe to use.
How to dispose of your damaged Car Seat
When your child’s car seat has been involved in a car accident, and it has been decided that it should no longer be used due to safety concerns, the best way to dispose of it is to throw it away. Again, make the seat unusable by removing the straps which then deters others from picking up the seat while out for trash pick-up.
One of the best ways to ensure the safety of your children is to keep up on child seat safety. By ensuring you are keeping up on expiration dates, new safety rules and regulations and understanding when a car seat should be expired can literally save a life. Though replacing a car seat may get costly, the life of a child has no price tag.