Why do child safety seats expire?

Why do child safety seats “expire?" It's about keeping your child safe. That's a fact to which the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) wholeheartedly agrees, and paying attention to child safety seat expiration dates is definitely among their top recommendations for child safety seat use.

Susan Helms, director of injury prevention and Safe Kids, shares several valid reasons why you need to stop using the child safety seat once it passes the expiration date.

Technology Improves and Standards Change.

A good example of this is that before 2002, child safety seats were not equipped with Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children (LATCH). Now however, they are a standard feature. Child safety seat expiration dates ensure that seats being used are current.

Materials Wear Down.

Child safety seats were not made to last forever. Overtime the restraint could develop hairline fractures which may shatter in a crash. Harness straps could become slightly elastic after years of use. The plastic may wear out from exposure to heat and cold over time.

Only Tested for a Certain Period.

After a certain amount of time, manufacturers do not test child safety seats. They cannot attest to how older restraints will perform in a vehicle crash.

Safe Kids Mid-South, led by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, offers these tips about child safety seat expiration dates:

Finding the Expiration Date

Many child safety seats have the date of expiration stamped on the base. Or it might show the date of manufacture. If that's the case, generally the child safety seat will expire 6 years after the date of manufacture. Only a few seats may be good for a few years longer than that. This is one strong reason why not to purchase used child safety seats. The labels are often missing on used child safety seats.

Date of Manufacture vs. Date of Purchase

When buying a child safety seat, refer to the date of manufacture and not the date of purchase. If you find a great deal on a child safety seat because it is the previous year's model, understand that it has a shortened life compared to the newest release.

Not About the Price Tag

Don't be deceived that a more expensive child safety seat will have a longer life time. That is not the case. All seats sold in the U.S. have to meet current child safety seat standards. You can purchase several excellent ones for less.

Register your Child Safety Seat

Remember to register your child safety seats and update the manufacturer with your most recent contact information. That’s the only way that the manufacturer can notify you in case of a recall.

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