Safety experts agree that it is important to pay attention to the expiration date on the car seat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends checking expiration dates on car seats and cites one of the top reasons to stop using a seat, is if it has expired. If you go to a check point, Child Passenger Safety Technicians will check the date on a car seat first. If it has expired, they are not permitted to install the car seat. It’s important to note that expiration dates are based on when the seat was manufactured, not necessarily the purchase date.
So why is this expiration date important to consider?
- Technology - Car seats today are being made with more durable material and are being crash-tested at higher levels. Many car seats today have longer expiration dates (for example, some current models have a 10-year life, as opposed to 5-year that some older car seats have) due to advances made in technology.
- Wear and Tear - You many not want to think about this, but it’s true. Bases can develop fractures. The belts on the LATCH system can become elastic over time and might not be able to get as tight of a fit as they once were (and remember, we want the tightness because we don’t want the seat to move too much from side to side). See our post for 5 Things to Do to Check Your Infant or Toddler Car Seat, including the inch test.
- Safety Standards - Advances in technology lead to updated Safety Standards. Think about this: in 2002, not all car seats yet had the LATCH system; and today car seats are being made with stronger LATCHes all the time, to hold a heavier baby. This is important since it’s now recommended to keep children rear-facing longer. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends: “All infants and toddlers should ride in a Rear-Facing Car Seat until they are 2 years of age, or until they reach the highest weight and height allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer.”
Most older car seats don’t allow for children to be in the rear-facing position as long as most newer models do. Also, newer convertible car seats will often transition into a booster seat. Thanks to technology and updated safety standards, car seats are being designed to keep children safer, longer. I view expiration dates as a reminder and opportunity to purchase a new seat that will do just that: keep your child safer, for a longer period of time.
Teresa Stewart, MS, MPH
Program Manager of Safety, Wellness and Sleep Support