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Carseat Safety: What Every Parent Needs To Know

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It's the law to have your young children safely buckled in a car seat when you're driving. The proper use of car seats has reduced infant deaths by 71% during car accidents. However, parents can make some basic mistakes when it comes to proper seat use and installation that reduces their overall effectiveness. Unfortunately, these errors can sometimes affect your insurance coverage. Here are some common mistakes that parents make when it comes to carseat safety and what they can do to make sure that their children stay safe.

Using an expired seat.

Just like nearly every other consumer product, carseats come with an expiration date. Many parents feel that if a seat has been taken care of and hasn't been in an accident, it should continue to work well. However, car seats do need to be replaced after they expire. The foam padding that supports the child begins to break down. The extreme heat and cold inside a car at different parts of the year begins to make the plastic components brittle and more easily damaged. Safety designs are constantly improving, so older models are not as advanced. In an accident, an expired seat will not perform as well as one that is newer.

Because of the safety risk posed by expired seats, many car insurance companies encourage their customers to replace them as needed by restricting coverage for seats that are expired. Your child might not be covered in a car accident if riding in an expired seat, simply because the risk of injury is greater. Be sure you are aware of your insurance company's policy and your carseat expiration date. 

Using a seat that has been damaged in a previous accident.

Even if a seat looks undamaged after a car accident, most of the time the seat needs to be replaced. Accidents can place stress on the seat and reduce its effectiveness in future crashes. Using a seat that has been in a previous accident can also void your insurance coverage with some companies. Seats are only safe to use after a minor collision, meaning that no one was injured, the car was able to drive away from the accident, the child's side door was not damaged, and the air bags did not deploy. If any of these things do not apply to your accident, the car seat must be replaced. Remember that most insurance companies pay for car seat replacement following an accident. 

Using the wrong seat type or configuration for your child's age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics changed the age recommendation for forward facing car seats. Before 2011, it was recommended that children under one remain rear facing, but now the recommendation is to wait until children are at least two before facing them forward. It does not matter if your child is exceptionally tall or long for his or her age -- they are still safer facing the rear as long as they are below the height and weight limit of the rear-facing seat. The reason why this position is safer even for toddlers is because the spinal cord is still developing. The forward momentum of a crash can actually sever the spinal cord at the neck in forward facing children. 

Using the right seat type and configuration for your child's age is an important part of preventing injury during an accident. Your personal vehicle safety and having the seat correctly installed can also reduce the increase in insurance premiums after a collision. If you show that you follow regulatory guidelines for child safety, you rates can be lower because you are less likely to be a liability to your insurance company.

For more information on carseat safety regulations, contact a local auto insurance company such as AALL Insurance.