When properly used and installed, car seats can dramatically reduce a child’s chances of injury or death in a car accident.
Collision repairers can play a role in keeping little ones safe through workshops, advocacy, and by providing guidance on whether seats should be replaced.
To help give parents the peace of mind that seats are secured, shops can consider hosting or promoting community events led by nationally certified child passenger safety technicians (CPS).
Shops can also encourage their employees to enroll in the four-day CPS certification course, to ensure car seats are reinstalled properly following service.
Many safety advocates recommend parents replace their car seats after being involved in moderate to severe crashes, and repair shops can help keep tiny passengers safe by offering customers guidance on whether seats should be replaced.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car seats do not need to be swapped out if a crash was minor. To qualify as such, it said all of the following boxes must be checked:
- The vehicle was driven away from the crash site
- The vehicle door closest to the car seat wasn’t damaged
- No passengers were injured
- Airbags did not deploy, if the vehicle is equipped with airbags
- There is no visible damage to the seat
If all of the above conditions aren’t met, the NHTSA said the car seat should be replaced. If they are, the federal agency said buying a new seat isn’t necessary, although some car seat manufacturers have taken a different stance.
“Some manufacturers recommend replacing a car seat after any accident,” Progressive noted on its website. “When in doubt, the NHTSA recommends following the manufacturer’s guidelines for when to replace a car seat. You should check your car seat’s manual or contact the manufacturer to confirm their guidelines.”
“You must replace your car seat and base if it has been involved in a vehicle crash, even if you can’t see visible damage,” Chicco says on its website. “A damaged car seat or base may not protect your child in a future accident.”
When evaluating damage to vehicles post-crash, repairers can assess whether the accident qualified as minor or more severe to help parents determine how to proceed.
Technicians can also encourage vehicle owners to contact their insurance companies to inquire about replacements when necessary. Some insurers, including Chubb, will compensate drivers for the cost of replacing car seats while others don’t include the expense in their policies.
Before tossing a damaged seat on a customer’s behalf, repairers should also keep in mind that documentation may be necessary before insurers cut a check.
Some insurers require photos that demonstrate damage, the car seat’s serial number, and expiration date, which can be found beneath the car seat’s lining. Or, some owners may prefer to keep the seat for store trade-in events.
Many safety advocates also recommend cutting the car seat’s straps before disposal so that they can’t be reused by others.
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