Experts share best practices for parents shopping for a child car seat

NHTSA has a car seat safety checklist on its website
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 4:05 PM CDT
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InvestigateTV - Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Statistics like that are why Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Spokesperson Fritzi Schreffler is so passionate about car seat safety.

Schreffler, who is also a car seat technician, said she spends several hours a day not just installing car seats for parents, but also educating them on the proper way to put it in their vehicle.

“We don’t want them to just put it in and have them go, ‘Great! I’m never taking it out and I’m leaving,’” Schreffler explained. “We want them to feel comfortable that they understood so we’re trying to get them involved. What we’re trying to do is do everything we can, pre-crash, to make sure your child is as safe as possible.”

Schreffler said parents should do their research to determine which car seat is best for their child and vehicle. She also cautioned parents looking to buy a used seat, particularly if the seller is a stranger online.

“Buying it on Facebook, you don’t know the history and somebody trying to sell it is not necessarily going to tell you the truth because they want to make money off of selling the seat,” Schreffler said.

Schreffler added she’s also seen an increase in counterfeit seats being sold.

“It has been really surprising to us that counterfeit car seats really have gained in popularity,” Schreffler said. “And really it’s when you’re buying it typically online. You need to look and see who’s selling it. Is it a third party that’s selling it that you can’t get in touch with to ask questions? Do they have all the proper labels? They’re going to make it look as close to a regular car seat as possible.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a car seat safety checklist on its website that highlights what parents should look for when buying a car seat.

Highway Safety Specialist Laura Dunn with NHTSA advised, “First of all, ensure that the seat has never been involved in a crash,” NHTSA Highway Safety Specialist Laura Dunn said. “The seat has labels stating the date and manufacturer and the model number, because you need that information to find out if there’s a recall on the seat or find out if the seat is too old to use.”

Dunn also said to look for any wear and tear on the buckles, straps and belts.

Ultimately, Schreffler recommended buying a new car seat over used, and added there are many affordable new car seats in stores that meet federal guidelines.

If you’re worried about installing a car seat properly, NHTSA has an inspection station locator on its website. Just put in your zip code to find the one closest to you.