Is Your Car Seat Safe?

Promotion for AMI

AMI is on a mission to help Kiwi caregivers ensure their car seats are as safe as possible, offering a suite of safety advice and greater insurance protection to help families stay safe on our roads.

AMI is providing greater protection to customers whose vehicles are stolen or involved in accidents and have partnered with child car seat specialists, Baby On The Move, to replace customers’ stolen or damaged car seats. If during the claims process, any car seats are deemed unsafe, AMI will ensure they are safely disposed of sustainably through its partnership with national car seat recycling programme, SeatSmart.

AMI hopes to bring awareness to the fact that car seats should be regularly checked and are not immune to the effects of crashes, impacts and second-hand wear and tear.

“Certain types of vehicle impacts can compromise a restraint’s integrity, and in some cases, there may not be any obvious signs of damage, but the restraint is in fact unsafe to continue using,” says Dean MacGregor, AMI’s Executive General Manager of Claims.

We spoke with AMI’s Dean MacGregor and Director of Baby On The Move, Claire Turner, to get best practice advice for car seats and how to help families stay safe on the road.

Where in the car is the best place to put a car seat?

Claire: The back seat is always the safest place for children traveling in a vehicle. You should never put a child in a rear-facing child restraint into the front seat of a car that has a passenger airbag. The best location for children in all types of car seats is behind the front passenger seat, followed by behind the driver’s seat.

How do I know when to turn my child’s car seat from rear-facing to forward-facing?

Claire: Current recommendations are to keep your child rear-facing until at least two years of age, or longer if possible. It’s important to know the maximum age, height and weight limits on your child’s restraint for rear-facing by reading the manual. Best practice is to ensure that your child does not outgrow the maximum rear-facing limits which in some cases can take your child to 4+ years. If your child is under the age of two and has reached the maximum rear-facing limits then it is best to purchase or hire another car seat that has higher rear-facing limits.

My child is tall for their age and is uncomfortable in the rear-facing position. Is there anything I can do to aid their safety before I turn them forward-facing?

Claire: There are many features to check to help your child’s comfort while rear-facing. Firstly, feet hanging over the end of the restraint or bent legs will not affect your child’s comfort or the safety performance of the restraint. Check your child’s age, weight and height. Once you have these details then refer to your car seat manual instruction so you can check the following: You need to check your child’s shoulder position in relation to the harness height, their head position in relation to the top of the restraint, and the rear-facing age limit. Is the harness crotch strap used in the correct position and do the padded inserts need to be removed? The angle of the rear-facing installation may need adjusting. If you need assistance, the child restraint technicians at all Baby On The Move stores can check this for you.

How do I know if a car seat has expired?

Claire: Most car seats expire between 5 – 10 years from the date of manufacture (DOM). However, some brands now go from date of purchase (DOP), which only applies to the original purchase date. If you can’t find an expiration date printed on the car seat either via a label or embossed into the back shell of the seat then check the restraint manual. If still in doubt, then please contact Baby On The Move – we are more than happy to check this for you. Alternatively, you can get in touch with a local certified child restraint technician – find one near you on the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency website.

Each manufacturer will give a life expectation on the seats that they make; this guarantees that the seat you buy will protect your child to their standards for as long as they say. The manufacturers actually do age testing and know the optimum time their seats will protect for. Other reasons to have a life on car seats can include factoring in deterioration of plastics over time with exposure to heat and or UV light, and over time technology changes hugely and a seat that is over ten years old will not have the latest safety features that newer seats will have.

We had a minor accident. Should I change the car seat?

Dean: New Zealand doesn’t have an official recommendation for replacing child car seats after an accident, so AMI Insurance suggests referring to international best-practice safety standards. As such, AMI refer to the following criteria to determine if a child car seat needs to be replaced after an accident:

1. The car-seat shows visible damage from the accident including cracking, creasing, stretched webbing, broken tether stitching, stress marks or broken pieces.
2. There is broken vehicle glass in the seat or its attached parts.
3. The vehicle has been involved in an impact/accident defined as moderate or severe, which included the following:

  • The vehicle could not be driven away from the crash site
  • The vehicle door closest to the child restraint was damaged
  • A passenger was injured during the accident
  • Airbags in the vehicle were deployed
  • The vehicle was towed from the scene of the accident
  • There was impact damage to the closest door (the rear passenger door or hatch/cargo in the third-row seat).

Following an accepted claim where the vehicle is covered by your AMI Car Insurance policy, AMI will replace child car seats where the above criteria applies, with brand new seats through Baby On The Move. They’ll also arrange for your old seat to be recycled via SeatSmart – keeping Kiwi kids safe from old damaged seats in the second-hand market. You can find out more about AMI child car seat cover by visiting ami.co.nz/childcarseatcover.

If the car seat has been involved in a minor accident, ie the vehicle was able to be driven, the door nearest the car seat was not damaged, no passengers sustained injuries, air bags did not deploy, and there is no visible damage to the car seat, you probably do not need to replace the seat.

Can I use a second-hand car seat that hasn’t expired?

Claire: You can, however you need to take extra caution before you use a second-hand car seat. You should know the history of the seat, make sure it hasn’t been in a crash, be sure that it has all the correct parts, is in good working order, and hasn’t been modified. Check there are no signs of cracks or discoloration in the restraint shell, fraying of the harness, rusty buckles or damage to any part of the seat. Check for any signs of mould on the harness straps and the cover as live mould spores are not recommended near children. It must also display the correct standard sticker for approval to be used in New Zealand which is:

1. New Zealand/Australian standard AS/NZ1754 (red & white 5 tick sticker)
2. European standard ECE 44 (E followed by a number sticker)
3. USA standard (yellow & black ‘S’ sticker)

Make sure it has the instruction manual. If not, you can usually download it online, but if you can’t find it online then don’t use it. If you’re still unsure, please contact your nearest Baby On The Move store as we offer a service to check this for you.

Speak with a Baby On The Move child restraint technician by contacting www.babyonthemove.co.nz or 0800 222 966.

Find out more about AMI at www.ami.co.nz or call 0800 100 200.

Written by Kidspot NZ with information from Baby on the Move and AMI.

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