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February 6 , 2004
NHTSA Advises Parents, Caregivers: Child Safety Seats Can Be Reused after Minor Crash

Following a review of research on child safety seat performance, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revised its advice to parents and caregivers to allow reuse of the seats following a minor crash.

NHTSA said the policy change was made to ensure that parents or caregivers continue to correctly restrain their child following a minor crash. It also will reduce the financial burden of unnecessary child safety seat replacement, NHTSA said.

“Current research indicates that child safety seats are very robust and continue to provide high levels of protection even after being involved in a minor crash,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D. “Our new advice reflects this research.”

The agency continues to recommend that parents and caregivers check with the child seat manufacturer with regard to performance, operation and installation of their child restraint. However, NHTSA also said that minor crashes are unlikely to affect child seat performance. Advising replacement of a child safety seat after a minor crash could create a financial burden on some parents, the agency said, and could lead to parents or caregivers using no restraint system while seeking a replacement.

NHTSA defined a minor crash as one in which all of the following apply:

  • A visual inspection of the child safety seat, including inspection under any easily movable seat padding, does not reveal any cracks or deformation that might have been caused by the crash;
  • The vehicle in which the child safety seat was installed was capable of being driven from the scene of the crash;
  • The vehicle door nearest the child safety seat was undamaged;
  • There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants; and
  • The air bags (if any) did not deploy.

NHTSA said crashes that meet all of these criteria are much less severe than the dynamic testing requirement for compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213 and are highly unlikely to affect future child safety seat performance. The safety agency said caregivers can be confident that child restraints involved in these minor crashes will continue to provide a high level of protection.

For those situations where any of these criteria has not been met, or if there is uncertainty whether damage to the seat has occurred, NHTSA advised parents or caregivers to contact their automobile insurance company regarding its policy on replacement of seats.

To see the revised NHTSA policy on the Internet, go to