Nov 25, 2008

When to replace a car seat that's been in an accident

As I wrote about over the weekend, we were rear-ended last week. Both boys were in the backseat in their car seats - a Britax Marathon for Alex and a Britax Roundabout for Tyler. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that car seats be replaced after a moderate or severe crash, but states replacement is not necessary if the crash was minor. It defines a minor car crash as one that meets all of the following criteria:
  • The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
  • The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged.
  • There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants.
  • The air bags (if present) did not deploy.
  • There is no visible damage to the safety seat.
The accident we were in does fit the criteria, but probably just barely. The back of the car is so badly damaged that I think we were only a few miles per hour from damage to the rear doors. So we'll be replacing the boys' seats.

Fortunately, our insurance will pay for it. That doesn't mean I won't hunt for bargains, though, especially since I am going to try to get them to pay for an upgraded seat for Tyler, because I just haven't been thrilled with the Roundabout. (My biggest complaints are that it's harder to install and the back is lower.)

However, instead of getting two Marathons, I am thinking about getting two Regents. I'd love to hear from anyone who has a Regent, because I'm just not sure the boys are ready for it.

In doing some research, I've come across quite a bit of food for thought. For instance, a friend who has a Regent pointed out that the Regent sits lower, making it harder for the child to see out the window. So I'm going to take the boys to try out the seat in her car, but it probably wouldn't be appropriate for Tyler, especially - at least not yet.

The same friend also reports that a friend of hers cautioned against using five-point harnesses with boys older over the age of four because they can be harmful to the genital region. I was skeptical, and couldn't find anything about that in a couple of Google searches, so I called our pediatrician's office. The doctor is out until the end of the week, but I got my favorite nurse on the phone. She didn't know anything about it and couldn't find anything about it while we talked. She did, however, point out that if it was a common problem, the doctors would be aware of it and warning parents about it. I even called the NHTSA hotline (888-327-4236) and was assured that there is no such problem. So I'm calling this one an urban legend.

Another thing I learned is that LATCH anchor weight limits vary by car but are usually around 40 pounds. The car seat then needs to be installed with the car's seat belt. The tether should be used regardless of the installation method. So that's something else to keep in mind.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), it's going to take two to three weeks for the car to be repaired. So I've actually got some time to think about this.

Image credit: Britax Regent Youth Car Seat at


sherri said...

First, I'm glad you're OK after your accident and that your insurance company is reimbursing you for the seats. I have "two" Regents. One is actually a Husky (precursor to the Regent) while the other is the real thing. I second your friend's note that they sit lower than most other Britax products. This is a good thing later when older, non restrained kids might want to poke fun of your 5pt harnessed child. In the car, the lower profile is harder to see.

One thing that I wasn't expecting was the height of the seat base side. My kids are unable to access the handle for the door (2000 Ford Explorer) so they can't let themselves out of the car from the rear. Not a big deal, but something to consider. I don't have latch so both kids use the tether and car seat belt to hold the Regent in.

My son is 9 and has never commented on discomfort in the nether regions. I could see how damage could occur if we were in a significant crash but it would be a small price to pay for an intact spine and all the other protection afforded the 5 pt harness system. Besides, wouldn't all 5 pt harnesses offer the same potential danger? I think this is a moot point.

My daughter (7) does complain about being hot in her seat but that may just be a function of her finicky nature. She also has a bad habit of loosening her restraint which is easy to do once they know how. If I were in the market to purchase another car seat, and I hope I never have to purchase another one, I would buy this seat again.

Corrie at "Cents"able Momma said...

I'm glad that you are all fine after the car accident.

Thank you so much for the info about car seats. I try to be very safety conscious about my car seats, but I didn't know all the criteria for replacing seats after a wreck. I thought you had to buy new with any wreck.

Thank you also for researching about the 5 point harness for boys over 4. I have a five year old in a 5 point harness (under 40 pounds), so I was starting to get worried when I first read that...nothing to worry about now :-).

Unknown said...

From what I have heard from our local expert (
the child's weight is more important than their age. Your children should be in a 5 point harness until 40 pounds. Our daughter has a Britax Boulevard which we love, it sits high up so she can see out the window and the side winga are good for long trips: if your kid falls asleep her head rests against the side bumpers. My 2 year old is rear-facing, and for that I don't like the Britax seats because they are shallow, so there is less room for his legs. He sits in a Graco comfortsport which is a deep seat. I will probably get him another Boulevard when he switches to forward facing in a year, and give his seat to my baby at that time. The carseat lady does NOT like the Roundabout because it is too short. We had originally bout one, and she told us to take it back because she wouldn't install it.

Good luck, and sorry about the accident. We had one this year, but very light and didn't need to replace the seats.

Jon and Melissa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TypeAmom said...

Just a quick FYI, a Regent cannot go on an airplane.

You should also check out the new Graco Nautilus (I know it is hard for a Britax mom to make a switch,I have been there) but it seems to be the go-to seat for the forward-facing crowd.


Chief Family Officer said...

@Sherri - Thank you so much for your insight! It's very helpful.

@CE - Was it you who pointed out the low back on the Roundabout? I don't really think it's a problem til the kid is taller, but since I get a do-over, so to speak, I certainly would prefer a Marathon for Tyler now.

@Melissa - Thank you so much! I'm just learning about the Radian, so I am going to email you.

@ETC - LOL! I love the way you said it's hard for a Britax mom to switch, that's pretty accurate :) But I'll take a look at the Nautilus, thank you!

Chief Family Officer said...

I'm re-posting Melissa's comment without her email address:

I have a sunshine kids radian. Love it!! I was going to do the regent but that seat is a beast and not fun to install. I bought it but then returned it. The raidan is slimmer and folds up for easier carrying if you travel by plane. they do have a 80 lb one but I felt like the 65lb was sufficent as the ht req is the same on both seats and my kids will outgrow ht wise before weight is even a possiblity. I am a avid researcher on car seats so if you have a question email me.

Shelly said...

I second the recommendation for the Radian 65/80. I have the 65 for my 3.5 year old and we love it. It's low side make it easy for him to climb in and out himself. It's easy to install in my Accord and it folds for airplane travel. It's heavy 20 lbs but really solid and still easier to get on the plane (with shoulder strap). My kiddo is on the tall and skinny side so he will hit the height limit before he hits 65 lbs. Glad to hear you are OK.