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Researchers recommend used child safety seats are thoroughly inspected

Researchers have found that despite heavy use, sun exposure, and general wear and tear, older child safety seats still perform well in simulated frontal crashes.

The findings by NeuRA researchers at the Transurban Road Safety Centre show that older restraints will protect a child occupant in a crash, providing they have not already been in a serious road accident.

The researchers found that some restraints were damaged during the testing in a way that would impair their performance in any subsequent crashes.

“In our laboratory crash testing, we found that these seats were effective in protecting child passengers from head and abdominal injuries,” said Dr Tom Whyte, an injury biomechanics engineer and postdoctoral research fellow at NeuRA.

“However, the force of the crash damaged some child safety seats so they would not offer the same level of protection if they were involved in another crash later on.”

The researchers tested used car seats up to 23 years old, including rearward-facing, forward-facing and booster seats in frontal crash tests. This included ex-rental seats that had been well-used.

Researchers say these findings highlight the importance of used seats being thoroughly inspected to ensure a child safety seat is in good condition and not missing any parts. But not all damage might be visible or in a place that can be easily seen. For this reason, researchers caution against using older restraints with an unknown history.

“Used car seats should always be checked to make sure that no critical components are damaged or missing,” said Dr Whyte.

“If you’re unsure about the protection offered by an older child restraint, we recommend using restraint fitting stations who can check the restraint for you,” said Dr Whyte.

An accredited restraint fitter will check all parts of the child seat to make sure everything works as designed, and ensure that nothing is:

  • missing,
  • incorrectly installed,
  • worn, or
  • damaged

For more information about installing restraints, parents can access the NSW Government’s Restraint Fitters Manual, which was designed following consultations with NeuRA researchers.