child in car seat with parents

Should You Reuse a Car Seat?

Financial considerations are always at the forefront when you have many expenses for your child already. Given how quickly young children grow and how much or how little time they spend in a car seat, you may be wondering if it’s worth buying a new car seat or reusing one again.

Using a Handed Down or Used Car Seat

If you plan to reuse a car seat, you should take certain safety measures, such as checking the seat against the requirements of the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (Health Canada) and Transport Canada’s Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). You must also ensure that you have instructions and a label showing the manufacture date and model number, that the seat hasn’t been recalled, has no missing parts or visible damage, has the National Safety Mark sticker displayed, and has never been in a car accident. Many parents make the error of using a car seat without researching its history. If you don’t know a car seat’s history, however, then you shouldn’t use it.

It is also important to ensure that the seat is not more than 6 years old and has not expired. All car seats have an expiry date on them as they are only tested and guaranteed for so long, based on reasonable use and regular wear and tear, assuming use from one child. Over time exposure to sunlight can damage and weaken plastic and make safe-use labels hard to read.

Proper installation and use of the car seat is imperative, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, kept on hand with the car seat. Your car manual will also provide you vehicle specific information for installing a car seat. It is common for parents to incorrectly install or use a car seat, including placing the seat in the wrong spot, reclining the child at the incorrect angle, moving up to each of the seat types too soon, and dressing the child in bulky outerwear. Some parents use the car seat as a replacement crib, which is also problematic as sitting upright can compress a newborn’s chest and lead to lower levels of oxygen, it can contribute to the development of a flat spot on the back of the baby’s head, and it can worsen gastro-esophageal reflux disease. Plus, there is a risk of falling from the seat or from an elevated surface.

For more information about installing a car seat safely, the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) offers a specialized Child Passenger Safety Program which may be able to answer your child car seat safety inquiries. The Ministry of Transportation, Safe Kids Canada and your local B.C. public health unit can also provide you information about installing a car seat safely and RCMP offices can do a safety check upon request.

When using the car seat, you must use it for travel only and ensure the type continues to be appropriate for your child’s age, height and weight. The B.C. Motor Vehicle Act outlines the appropriate car seat for your child’s age and size as follows: infants/toddlers to 9 kg (20 lbs), toddlers/preschool between 9-18 kg (20-40 lbs), and children weighing over 18 kg (40 lbs+) who are under nine years old or 4’9” (145 cm) tall. ICBC provides more details about these car seat types on their website page on child car seats. The rule for a child who is 12 or over or is too large for a car seat is that he or she should sit in the back seat using a properly adjusted seatbelt instead of a car seat.

Buying a Used Car Seat

If you are buying a used car seat, you need to ensure that it meets all the above safety criteria and that you also inquire whether the seat has ever been in an accident. Car seats are subject to updated regulations and should not be sold, given or lent out if owned or manufactured before January 1, 2012. Further, anyone who buys a used car seat that is told the seat is safe but it turned out to be defective or damaged in an accident may have a lawsuit against the seller.

Reusing a Car Seat after an Accident

You may be wondering if a car seat can be reused after a car accident (even a very minor one) as an accident could have reduced its ability to function safely. Car manufacturers generally recommend replacing a car seat after an accident unless the accident was very minor. Many manufacturers use the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines to determine if a car seat can be used after a minor crash. The NHTSA considers the accident to be minor if all the following apply:

  • The vehicle can still be driven after the crash;
  • The vehicle door nearest the child car seat was undamaged;
  • No one in the vehicle was injured;
  • The air bags (if present) did not deploy; and
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat.

ICBC has performed its own car seat research. They put new and used car seats through multiple crash tests that simulated a vehicle impact into a concrete barrier at 15 km/hour and found that none of the seats showed any damage or deterioration.

Contact Us at Kenneth Cristall Law Corporation

If your child is injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the professionals at Kenneth Cristall Law Corporation serving Surrey and throughout Vancouver. We can investigate to determine the probable cause of the accident and if there are other causes of injury, such as a previously defective or damaged car seat. Our car accident lawyers are also located in Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Langley. We specialize in personal injury cases. Contact us today at 604-654-2250.

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