I'm a husband, father, and have dedicated the last decade to becoming an expert and advocate on car seat safety and best practices on car seat use (e.g., extended rear-facing or extended harnessing), as well as on factors related to auto safety for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

On my site, The Car Crash Detective, I work to review every car seat on the market (and have purchased, borrowed, or sold more than 200 at this point) and provide a resource for parents through a range of articles on what to and what not to do when it comes to keeping kids safe in vehicles. Ask me anything related to keeping kids safe in cars or car safety in general and I'll do my best to answer.

Proof post

Edit: It looks like everyone has gone to bed! Thank you all for the questions, and please feel free to post more if you have more. I'll be back in the morning to check : D

Edit 2: It's 7:35 AM Central and I'm here for another hour or so to field more questions.

Edit 3: Lots of questions! I'll stick around for the rest of the day checking and answering. I hope this has been helpful for everyone.

Comments: 143 • Responses: 56  • Date: 

SpiritWolfie11 karma

Someone once told me that car seats actually have expiration dates.

Conspiracy me thinks this is just a gimmick of car seat manufacturers to sell more car seats.

What's the truth?

Is there any scientific data to back up the need for expiration dates if they're real?

CarCrashDetective17 karma

Yes, expiration dates are definitely real. I don't have any links on hand right now but I've been meaning to write about that for a while. However, yes, they do expire because the plastic shells break down over time, and manufacturers establish limits based on the statistical likelihoods of breakdown (much like shutter life ratings on digital cameras). If you've got a 7 year seat and you use it at 7.5 years, it's not like it's going to disintegrate if you drop it, but manufacturers do want a significant buffer, since seats make life/death differences.

Also keep in mind that the expiration date is based on the date of manufacture, not the date of purchase. The clock starts ticking the day the seat is made.

As evidence that manufacturers aren't just trying to sell more seats, note that the expiration dates have actually been increasing in recent years with most seats due to technology changes. There are now some seats that are rated for 10 years or more.

SpiritWolfie2 karma

...the expiration dates have actually been increasing in recent years with most seats due to technology changes. There are now some seats that are rated for 10 years or more.

So that makes me wonder, if there's been some sort of technological breakthrough in car seat manufacturing.

I have a hard time believing that but then again I haven't even been thinking about this until someone told me they actually have expiration dates a few months ago.

CarCrashDetective8 karma

It's not so much technological breakthroughs as it is refinement and improvement in design and testing. It's kind of like how there are cars that will stop a 31 mph T-bone by a 3500 lb SUV 20 cm away from the center of the driver's seat these days, while 10 years ago in 2004, it was considered revolutionary to have cars that could stop that crash with 9.5 cm to spare. Better materials and, more importantly, better design.

SpiritWolfie-17 karma

I actually think you're confirming my suspicion that expiration dates are simply there to sell more seats.

Yes tech improves but that doesn't mean the old tech should be replaced. You don't see expiration dates on cars or other types of safety equipment like seat belts. I know that tires and brakes have to be serviced at regular intervals but they don't have expiration dates on them.

CarCrashDetective13 karma

Actually, tires have unofficial expiration dates; studies have indicated the rubber tends to wear down whether tires are used or not within around 6 years. There are political reasons for why they don't have official dates, but yes, tires can and do expire in the sense of becoming unsafe to use, regardless of how or if they were used. I believe seat belts are also recommended to be replaced after a certain number of years, even though they also don't have official expiration dates. Things simply break down over time.

SpiritWolfie8 karma

Things simply break down over time.

A very valid point as well as your other explanations.

Thanks for your feedback.

CarCrashDetective5 karma

No problem, and thanks for the questions. You make me think more about the reasons behind everything, which is always appreciated.

thegreatgazoo9 karma

Why do they make car seats such a pain in the ass to install? You just about have to be a combination of Bill Nye, Norm Abram, and Hulk Hogan to get them in right. Then authorities complain that they aren't installed correctly with something like 80% installed wrong.

Why don't they use some sort of ratchet strap tighteners with a strain gauge to show that the straps are tight enough? I can get 4 ratchet straps for my truck for $20, so it shouldn't be a cost thing. Bigger ones can hold a motorcycle in a truck.

Better yet have something you can crank or get energy into a spring or something like that, hook up the straps and push a button and presto, it is all level and tensioned right. If not a spring maybe plug it into the cigarette lighter and use a motor and small computer to do it. It could even have auto tensioners for the inside straps where if it detects a crash it cinches up the straps.

Yes you can take them in and get them professionally installed. Which is great until the kid pukes all over them late at night when you are out of town and you need to take it out to clean it. It used to be that you could go to any fire house and get them put in but they won't do it anymore because of liability.

CarCrashDetective5 karma

I hear you. This is one of the areas manufacturers have been working on for years. The LATCH system was designed to be easier than seat belt installations, as it takes less force (and thought) to correctly install.

Different manufacturers are trying different things. Britax has a "ClickTight" system that's designed to make seat belt installations very easy, and I'm a fan of that too.

But in general, I'd go with LATCH if you want a simpler experience or a seat belt if you have the patience to do so. Watch YouTube videos for your particular model or for car seats in general. You're looking for 1" or less of movement at the base of the seat in any direction.

thegreatgazoo5 karma

Even with the latch system and a $300+ retail car seat, we had the straps that you have to basically sit on the seat to get it squished into the actual car seat while futzing with the strap buckle things. It is 3 years old now so there may be newer stuff out there.

The latch system is easier than using seat belts and when I went to put a car seat in the first time I thought it was going to be a snap. Boy was that wrong.

Seriously car seat makers (and I know you are out there and reading this) there has to be a better way. I shouldn't be "Success Kid" because my daughter graduated to a booster seat so I don't have to fool with the installation anymore.

CarCrashDetective2 karma

I do hope the installation process gets easier in the future, and that someday it's as easy as clicking in a seat belt. Of course, 50% of people in fatal collisions are found to not have been wearing seat belts at all, still, so no matter how easy a system is, it still depends on people actually using it.

anonamys1 karma

But haven't they recently changed the weight limit that you can use LATCH for? It sounded to my layman's ears like they are now thinking that LATCH isn't as strong as it should be for toddlers/larger infants?

CarCrashDetective1 karma

They have indeed changed LATCH limits, and those depend on the seat as well as the anchor. LATCH definitely isn't as strong as seat belts at the upper end, which is why there have always been anchor limits but not seat belt limits. Personally, I suggest everyone use seat belts if they can get good installations, as that way you never have to worry about weight limits (besides those of the seat itself, of course). Seat belts also make it much easier to have 3 across car seat installations.

NotCleverEnufToRedit2 karma

I hear people complain about this all the time, but I don't really understand it. When my kids were little, I followed the directions, cranked the seats down as tight as I, a non-gym rat almost 30 mom, could, and checked to see if the seats wiggled at all. The didn't. At fire department safety checks, I was told the seats were installed correctly. It wasn't rocket science or even really all that hard.

CarCrashDetective4 karma

I do think a lot of it has to do with not reading the manuals thoroughly and being willing to re-install or get help if necessary. A lot of parents mean well but essentially lock the seat belt and have a wiggly seat and just go with it. This is one of those areas where spending an hour or two really figuring things out can save a lifetime of heartache.

MoronFive6 karma

What are your thoughts on the Doyle/Levitt research on car seats (http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/doyle-levitt%20car%20seat%20injuries.pdf)?


"Young children are required to use child safety seats, and the age threshold at which children can legally graduate to seat belts has steadily increased. This paper tests the relative effectiveness of child safety seats, lap-and-shoulder seat belts, and lap belts in preventing injuries among motor vehicle passengers aged 2-6. We analyze three large, representative samples of crashes reported to police, as well as linked hospital data. We find no apparent difference in the two most serious injury categories for children in child safety seats versus lap-and-shoulder belts. Child safety seats provide a statistically significant 25% reduction in the least serious injury category. Lap belts are somewhat less effective than the two other types of restraints, but far superior to riding unrestrained."

CarCrashDetective4 karma

I've seen that report a lot of times, and this is typically the part I reference first in it in disagreement:

"...the data do not report whether a restraint was properly installed..."

It's estimated that between 70 and 90% of car seats are installed incorrectly in the United States. Unfortunately, a poorly-installed seat isn't going to do much more in a collision for a young child than a seat belt. We do know that terrible things can happen to young children in seat belts in crashes; for example, they tend to fly out of their seats above or below the belts or have internal organs crushed due to the belts pressing against tissue instead of against bone.

unimatrix_015 karma

It's estimated that between 70 and 90% of car seats are installed incorrectly

This tells me that there are a series of engineers who should be fired. If people can assemble furniture from drawings, there's no reason people shouldn't be able to correctly install a well-designed car seat from a simple drawing. The installation should be unambiguous and foolproof. The designs I've seen seem more like afterthoughts. Even with the Latch system, there are typically no ratchets, and the anchors are inaccessible to adult hands. It's silly.

CarCrashDetective5 karma

There's definitely a lot of work to be done in making seats easier for the average person to use. However, a lot of issues do come down to people not reading manuals or simply not paying attention. Keep in mind that the rate of seat belt non-compliance in fatal crashes in the US is 50%, which means that half of all people found dead in collisions were not using seat belts at all. And it's not hard to use a seat belt.

fullahead5 karma

Alright, new baby coming... What one should I buy? There must be a superior one in your opinion.

CarCrashDetective3 karma

Congratulations! For a baby, people generally either buy convertible seats or infant seats. I prefer convertibles because they can be used for much, much longer.

Broadly, I'd choose a convertible seat here with the highest weight limits you can afford. The truth is that every seat that can be sold is a safe one; the differences are in height/weight limits and in ease of installation. My favorite seat under $200 is the Graco Size4Me, while my favorite above is probably the Clek Fllo. The Graco has a 40 pound RF weight limit but a very high height limit, while the Fllo has a 50 pound RF limit and good height limit.

And yes, rear-face as long as possible!

JungleLegs5 karma

What are some interesting things we don't know about car seats?

CarCrashDetective21 karma

  1. Most kids should actually be in some form of car seat at least until the age of 10.

  2. Rear-facing car seats are the safest position for both kids and adults.

  3. The rear-facing seat is often called the orphan seat in EMT and ER circles because in bad crashes, it's often the only seat where there's a survivor.

JungleLegs17 karma

Learn to drive my car backwards, got it.

CarCrashDetective8 karma

Hah. My wife's hope is that someday with automated cars, manufacturers will design seats that can be rotated so adults in the front can face the back while those in the back face the front, like train cars.

JungleLegs7 karma

This makes me wonder why the seats in school buses aren't backwards.

CarCrashDetective13 karma

That's a good point. Buses use a process called compartmentalization to secure children, and they also have the advantage of weighing massively more than most other vehicles on the road. As a result, the corresponding crash forces are much lower.

JungleLegs1 karma

ohhh so is that why there are never seat belts? I think I recall being on a bus once where the first few rows had seat belts.

CarCrashDetective7 karma

Yup, that's a big part of it. The NHTSA also concluded some years back that lap belts wouldn't make much of a difference, and that while lap/shoulder belts could help, they'd also be expensive and that since so few fatalities occurred annually anyway with school buses, they wouldn't want to do anything that could reduce the number of students who ride buses. But yes, the design of the buses and weight of them play a big role. Now you're more likely to see 5-point harnesses on smaller buses (which weigh less), especially those that transport Pre-K children.

SkeletorSwag5 karma

3... 0_o

CarCrashDetective6 karma

Yeah. From time to time I take a look at crashes that pop up in my area or on Google News, and I remember one I blogged about a few months ago that involved a lady that crossed the center line in her mid-sized car and drove into the path of a Class A RV. You're talking a 3300 lb vehicle vs a 25,000 lb vehicle. She died, of course. The car was squashed. The infant in the rear-facing seat survived without serious injuries.

dabisnit2 karma

For #1, is that age coming down? Is there a height deal as well? I am the 1% that was nearly 5 foot when I was 9. 10 years old seems really really old to be in a car seat.

That being said, when I was in grade school my mom ran a red light and got in a bad accident (me in a small car t-bone a SUV), while nobody but maybe my sister was in a car seat and nobody got injured, I can see why they are at the age they are.

CarCrashDetective1 karma

It's not coming down; if anything, some children will need a higher age. The NHTSA rec is 57", or 4'9", and different kids reach that at different ages, and some will need to be a bit taller than that since they might be built differently. The age figure is just a mapping of the height, which is what's important. Since you sound like you were in a very percentile for height in terms of hitting 5' at 9, you could conceivably have switched to an adult belt safely if you'd passed all the checks for proper fit.

And yes, T-bones can get ugly (fatal) fast. I write about those as well, and it doesn't take much to kill people with those.

thirtyfourfivekv1 karma

Have you heard of the baby trend "inertia" car seat? They slide to a more upright position in a collision. (Rear facing). Are they any good?

CarCrashDetective2 karma

I've heard of the Inertia. I'd say it's about as good as any other infant seat. Typically if someone's set on an infant seat I suggest the KeyFit 30, but really, most any seat will do, as I basically see an infant seat as a convenient way to carry a young infant before switching to a convertible.

SkeletorSwag5 karma

So a few years back (at least it feels like it) it was determined that people should let their kids grow to 3'8" I think, until they didn't need a car seat. I faintly remember commercials about it. Why did they decide that it would be safer to have taller children still in car seats?

CarCrashDetective8 karma

Great question. The reason it's safer to have taller kids still in car seats is because if they don't fit adult seats and seat belts properly, they can suffer serious injuries (or death) in collisions that would otherwise be survivable in booster seats or forward-facing harnessed seats. The truth is that most kids aren't going to be ready for adult seat belts until they're around 10 or 12, because it takes that long for them to grow tall enough to have both the shoulder and lap belts sit the way they should.

SkeletorSwag3 karma

Another question if you don't mind. What were some recent innovations on newer car seats? Most of them look the same as they did in the 2000's.

CarCrashDetective7 karma

Of course! The biggest innovations are in internal design for greater weight/height limits. For example, there are a number of seats now in the US that can keep children rear-facing until 50 pounds and 44" in height, which is huge, as just a few years ago, seats topped out at 40 pounds. Rear-facing is the safest position for children of all ages (and adults, by the way). So the longer you can keep a child rear-facing, the safer s/he is.

Similarly, the height and weight limits for forward-facing seats have also grown significantly in recent years, which is good because forward-facing in a harness is safer than booster use for younger children.

thoriginals_wife4 karma

Okay so I heard that bulky snowsuit should not be used under car seat straps because the straps are too lose should an accident occur. Last year we used a fleece 1 piece suit and a cotton poncho but this year my baby is 19mo and will be using a full 2 piece snow suit. With Canadian winters where it gets -20c for at least several consecutive weeks, what should I use to ensure my toddler stays warm but also safe.

We don't have a garage either so the cars so cold we use a block heater to ensure it starts.

Is a snow suit ok for older kids? I'm lost.

CarCrashDetective10 karma

Ooh, good question. This one is hard because yeah, you don't want a frozen child but you also don't want one that's unprotected. What you want to do is test out the coat or snowsuit you're thinking of right in the seat with the child in the following way:

  1. Suit on, strapped in.

  2. Remove child, don't adjust harness, remove suit.

  3. Suit off, strapped in.

  4. Check harness for looseness. If the harness isn't any less tight, or is only a bit more slack, then it's fine. If you've got a lot of slack, it's not a good suit.

So essentially, you kind of need to trial and error your way through it to be sure. Don't just go by how a suit looks without trying it; some can look identical but behave very differently with the harness.

jackt1234 karma

I was wondering, recently I read aircraft pilots seats have to be plastic - unpadded because they will basically shatter their spine in an ejection if the seats are padded... Could you explain why this is the case?

Is it to do with the fact that the padding will compress and the bottom (hard bit of the seat) hits the person at the velocity of the ejection as opposed to them accelerating upwards uniformly? Or is there are deeper reason that I am missing?

CarCrashDetective3 karma

That's a great question, and unfortunately I have no idea. However, I'll look into it and see if I can find any information.

zlsa3 karma

What do you think about the rear-facing child seats in the Tesla Model S?

CarCrashDetective4 karma

I think they're a great idea, and I hope more manufacturers take note and start including built in rear-facing 5-point harnesses in their vehicles. It would make things so much easier for parents and costs very little for manufacturers to add to vehicles. Volvo used to do this years ago with their V70 station wagon.

biglettuce1 karma

Pardon my ignorance, but those children are in the trunk... Won't their legs be crushed in a serious fender Bender? Wouldn't that in a way negate the effects of added safety from a five point harness?

CarCrashDetective3 karma

Good question. The Tesla in particular with the rear seats has a reinforced rear structure to make it more resistant to rear-end collisions.

Besides that, although I'm not aware of studies on rear-facing seats in the wagon area of vehicles, in regular rear-facing car seats, the risks of broken legs are actually lower than those faced by forward-facing children, simply because of how much safer RF is due to distributing the forces along a greater part of a child's body.

And besides that, a broken leg beats a broken neck or back for survival any day.

And finally, serious or fatal rear collisions are the rarest kind (out of front, side, rear) due to the much lower speed differential in such collisions.

farstriker113 karma

I'm not sure if there are statistics one way or another, but I personally question the idea of putting kids in rear-facing car seats until 2 years old. It seems to me that the distractions caused by a toddler not facing forward (and seeing parents, out the windows, etc.) would actually cause more wrecks and therefore be overall more dangerous than whatever gains would come from the rear-facing seat. Is there any way to compare the danger of distracted driving and more accidents vs. survivability in case of an accident?

CarCrashDetective9 karma

I get what you're saying, and do get that concern from others and as a parent. However, I'm not aware of any studies that have shown extended rear-facing to cause more accidents and fatalities than early forward facing. In contrast, it's known that children are much less likely to die or suffer serious injuries when rear-facing for longer periods of time. The US recommendation of RF until 2 is still far too early; the recommendation should be 4, the way it is in Sweden, which has the best child auto safety record in the world. Recommendation wise, we're still decades behind best practices.

farstriker113 karma

Thank you for the response and the AMA.

CarCrashDetective3 karma

You're welcome! Thank you for the question. Sometimes I learn more from the folks who ask "Why?" than from anything else.

anonamys1 karma

Thank you for spreading the word on this! I work with families and do my best to share the information on why rear-facing is safer, and why people should do it for as long as possible, but it's an uphill battle. It's also hard when seats have rear-facing weight limits that keep families from staying rear facing even when they want to. (Should I really have to tell parents that they might be able to purchase European seats online?)

CarCrashDetective1 karma

You're welcome, and thank you for your work in this area as well. And yes, we definitely need higher rear-facing weight limits in car seats in the US. My wife and I considered buying from Europe years ago too, and it's ridiculous to have to do that to keep kids safe. Especially when you see the same manufacturers (e.g., Britax) offering seats with 50 or 55 pound RF limits in Europe and only 40 pound weight limits here.

jaredandcat2 karma

My Honda doesn't have anchors in the middle seat. In this case, which side is safest for the car seat?

CarCrashDetective3 karma

Great question. Seat belts are as safe as anchors; please feel free to use them instead of LATCH whenever necessary. Personally, I prefer seat belt installations since, unlike LATCH, they have no weight limits.

jmuns792 karma

If I may be so presumptuous, I think I'd like to clarify the question. I know that the middle seat is safest for the car seat, but I can't get the stinking seat belt to anchor as tightly as LATCH. So, in those cases, when the sides are the only option, is there a safer side?

CarCrashDetective2 karma

No problem. If the sides are the only option, both are equally safe. And a seat that's correctly installed outboard is much safer than an inboard seat that's loose.

Franklyidontgivearip2 karma

In a RF infant seat, (I have the Evenflo Embrace 35 which was just recalled, but anyway) when not using the base (won't fit) and putting it in the front passenger seat RF in a truck with the airbag manually turned off and threading the seatbelt though the top of the seat, do I put both the lap belt and the shoulder belt through the slots or just the lap belt?

CarCrashDetective2 karma

Do you have a typical system where the lap and shoulder belt are connected? If that's the case, you only thread the lap belt through and let the shoulder bit rest against the front of the vehicle's seat as it goes back to the retractor.

Franklyidontgivearip2 karma

Yes we do. Thank you! I couldn't figure out which was best and the manual doesn't give really great instructions.

CarCrashDetective2 karma

You're very welcome : D

dharlem392 karma

your thoughts on the driverless car?

CarCrashDetective5 karma

I can't wait until they're everywhere and driven cars fade away. People don't take driving seriously, and refuse to stop speeding and drinking, which are implicated over and over and over again in fatal collisions. The sooner computers do our driving for us, the better.

biglettuce2 karma

Not sure if I'm too late or not, but my daughter is almost 15mos and her legs are already pretty long and she's getting scrunched up against the actual seat of the car. If this gets too bad can we switch the car seat to forward facing, or should we wait until she's 2-3 like the AAP says?

CarCrashDetective3 karma

Good question that comes up a lot. At a minimum, wait until 2, and I'd strongly suggest going as far as you can, including past 4 if possible. The truth is that there's no safer position for a child in a car than rear-facing, and the more time you can get in that position, the longer your child stays at the highest level of safety. Don't worry about her legs; kids are used to sitting cross-legged and don't actually mind it at all. As long as she's within the height and weight limits, keep her in the seat. If you have the budget, buy another convertible seat with higher weight / height limits and continue to RF until hitting 4.

biglettuce2 karma

Awesome, can't remember the size limits on her seat but we plan on buying a second one anyway because we have two cars and the whole "switching-the-car-seat-from-car-to-car-every-other-day" thing sucks.

Also thanks for taking time out of your weekend to help people out with this stuff. There's a lot of confusion around car seats I think

CarCrashDetective2 karma

Yes, I'd definitely suggest one seat per car. It's a pain to move them from one to the other unless you've got an infant seat with an extra base, and of course, infant seats don't last very long.

And you're welcome, and completely right; there's a lot of confusion around car seats, and we could use a lot more resources in the public to help people make good choices and get good installations.

mouthpipettor2 karma

My kids are still little so I won't need the following for awhile, but what do I do with the car seats once they're not needed anymore?

I've heard I need to cut off the harness straps to prevent someone else using it, and put the shell by the curb. The idea of all that plastic in a landfill depresses me. Are there any car seat recycling programs in the US?

CarCrashDetective6 karma

I agree that the thought of car seats rotting away in a landfill is depressing. Fortunately, there are a number of recycling programs out there, and usually one at your local Babies R Us. Google "Car seat recycling" in your area to find the closest one; typically you drop the seat off and they process the parts that can be reused to make new seats.

thirtyfourfivekv1 karma

Have you heard of the baby trend "inertia" car seat? They slide to a more upright position in a collision. (Rear facing). Are they any good?

CarCrashDetective1 karma

Yup, I've heard of the Inertia. I'd say it's about as good as any other infant seat. I like that it has a no-rethread harness.

Typically if someone's set on an infant seat I suggest the KeyFit 30, but really, most any seat will do, as I basically see an infant seat as a convenient way to carry a young infant before switching to a convertible.

[deleted]1 karma


CarCrashDetective2 karma

I have, and I am not. However, I'm definitely a fan of sustainable living, and think we have a lot to learn from each other about reducing our impact on the environment and needs to keep up with the Joneses.

anonamys1 karma

What is your recommendation for special-needs kids who may have poor (or no) head control even when they are one or two years old? Obviously rear-facing, but are there some that recline a bit more than others or have better head support than others?

CarCrashDetective2 karma

For special-needs kids or anyone with a greater need for head support, I'd suggest convertible seats with high RF weight limits, such as the Dionos. They can still be used in RF position with newborn levels of recline for a while. Rolled receiving blankets can also be used to provide additional head support.

mixed_biznits_please1 karma

This may have been asked already, but it seems counterintuitive to NOT use both the LATCH system and a seatbelt together. Why should they be used independently? I guess I feel that the LATCH it safer, but my kid is on the weight limit cusp of going with just the seatbelt in his convertible car seat, so I use both thinking it offers extra protection. Can you explain?

CarCrashDetective2 karma

Ah, I get this question a lot. First of all, seat belts are as safe as LATCH, and are more versatile, since they don't have weight limits, unlike LATCH. I personally prefer seat belts because of that reason and because they make it easier for 3 across installations. You don't want to use both because seats are tested with one or the other, and never with both at the same time, so you're essentially putting the seat under two different sets of strains simultaneously at very high levels.

NathansDad1 karma

ToyoMike? Is it you??

CarCrashDetective1 karma

Nah, although my name is Mike...

Blueeyes11011 karma

Okay my kid is 3 months today. Right now we have a chicco keyfit but the shoulder straps are on the last level they can go! Obviously well have to get a new car seat soon. Suggestions? Were looking at sticking with chicco because they seem very comfy for LO. So chicco nextfit? Thoughts?

CarCrashDetective1 karma

Yes, I'd go with the NextFit if you want to stick with Chicco. It's a very easy seat to install as well, which is a bonus.

HottieMcHotHot1 karma

Thank you so much for doing this! I've been reading your blog and added a few of the car seats to our registry in the hopes that someone might want to pony up the dough. If money is no issue, what is the best car seat on the market in your opinion?

CarCrashDetective2 karma

You're welcome! I'm glad it's been a resource for you. Good luck with your registry. If money is no issue, for a convertible seat, I think the best out there right now is the Clek Fllo, while for a combination seat, my favorite is the Pinnacle 90.

[deleted]1 karma


CarCrashDetective3 karma

You technically can buy one (e.g., eBay, Craigslist, a friend, etc), but the reason you're discouraged from doing so is because unless you can trust the seller, you can't verify whether or not the seat has ever been in a crash. Most seats are like bike helmets in that they need to be replaced after any crash, even if you don't see any external damage. A used seat might have a structural crack that renders it...less than helpful in a crash, but there might not be any way to know in advance.

Also, car seats have expiration dates, and used seats will naturally have less time before they're due to expire.

Terocs1 karma

How does the US compare to the rest of the world in terms of Car Seat safety>? Are there any countries that have any specific reputations when it comes to car seats? Like Asian car seats are good at math?

CarCrashDetective5 karma

The US is a lot better than a number of poor countries and some fellow rich countries, but we're also more lax than some, such as Sweden, which is my favorite reference when it comes to best practices in car seats. Here in the US, parents typically turn kids forward-facing at 1, even though the recommendation now is to wait until 2, as parents see it as a sign that their kids are mature, etc. In Sweden, parents typically don't turn forward-facing until around 4, and it creates a much safer environment for kids.

More locally, in the US, another example of practices that need improvement is the fact that we don't require top tether use when forward-facing, even though it's a really good idea and suggested by every car seat manufacturer. As a result, not many parents do it.

In Canada, it's the law.

BeagleAteMyLunch1 karma

Is a 15 year old car the same saftey wise, then when it was 1 year old?

CarCrashDetective2 karma

If it hasn't been in a collision, generally yes. The safety cell is designed for the life of the car, as are the airbags (as long as the light isn't on, of course). So a car that scored a "good" in an offset crash 15 years ago like a 2000 Toyota Avalon can be expected to do as well in that crash against a 2015 Toyota Avalon with a "good" score, particularly if both vehicles are still in the same weight class.

BensPixels1 karma

What's your opinion on custom seats for cars like recaro, bride etc?

CarCrashDetective1 karma

Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with custom racing seats at all. However, I'd suggest searching to learn about how they're restrained and whether they're allowed in other countries, such as those in Europe. Generally the Europeans pay more attention to car safety than we do, and if something is OK there, it would usually be a good idea here, while the reverse is less often true.

For example, side underride guards for cyclists and pedestrians are required on tractor trailers in Europe. They still aren't here, which needlessly kills a few people each year.

pauljs751 karma

What's the word on minivan seats, the removable ones in particular?

I noticed they don't seem to have any indicator as to whether they're anchored correctly other than trying to push/pull on it as hard as possible. (Some seem like they're on there, but with a good enough shove they will pop out.) It seems like there should be something to make it a bit more obvious whether it's actually secured correctly.

Also any particular makes and models that have better seat anchoring systems or seat designs?

CarCrashDetective1 karma

I'm fine with minivan seats; they still have to pass the FMVSS standard related to vehicle seats in cars. I do agree that the indicators of whether they're correctly installed should be much clearer, either by audio or by some kind of visual cue. With car seats, the 1" test is the typical way you see whether a seat is installed well or not.

IDDQD7771 karma

Hey! Why dont most countries (atleast where I live) allow roll cages and racing seats installed? Wouldnt that be safer than the usual car seats?

lol_wutdafuq2 karma

If you're not wearing a helmet, bumping your head on the roll cage can kill you in a crash that you'd have walked away from otherwise.

CarCrashDetective1 karma

This too. To be honest, I'd estimate that at least 1/4th of currently fatal collisions could disappear overnight if we wore helmets in vehicles, even without roll cages. However, we still have 1/3rd of fatal collisions linked to alcohol, every single year. That's around 10-12,000 deaths a year that are completely preventable.

444444444444444441 karma

racing seats? idk. Roll cages without proper seat belts though, just imagine being the bell in here when the car gets crashed. I think roll cages would give a false sense of security. Also cost. The modern automobile is already relatively safe.

IDDQD7771 karma

Well I dont know, thats why I asked. The racing seatbels strap you into the safety casket which is the seat, moslty leaving only the legs out and for them and everything else is the roll cage. One doesnt work without the other. Again, Im no expert but how is that not safer than most small city cars? There simply isnt anything left if a lorry is involved or they go over the speed limit? Now I imagine that a roll cage, seats and belts could do alot of good if one happens to crash such a car or any car infact. But the road regulations doesnt allow such a thing, you couldnt pass yearly tech evaluation and so on - makes me wonder if its more dangerous for other drivers, pedestrians or if simply the government doesnt like people surviving high speed collisions?

CarCrashDetective2 karma

Personally, I would love to see roll cages and 5-point harnesses for adults in cars. The 5-point is standard for children in rear-facing seats and in forward-facing seats because it keeps children in the optimal position to be protected by the car seat. The 3-point is puny in comparison. It's very, very hard for a harnessed child to fly out of a car seat in a collision.

I think the reasons we don't have them are due to expenses and politics. Car manufacturers don't advocate for them because they'd be expensive and they wouldn't want to be liable for people using them incorrectly.

We're definitely moving toward stronger car structures, though. The IIHS does testing on vehicle roofs and has done so for years now, and vehicles need to resist 4x their weight without roofs caving in more than 5 inches to receive a "good" score. The US NHTSA standard of 1.5x weight is woefully inadequate in comparison. You can look up your vehicle if it's recent to see its score.

Nf1nk1 karma

I drive a ratty old Jeep with only lap belts in the back. I also have a 5 year old. Do I put the booster in the front seat where there is a shoulder belt or the back where there is none?

I like my ratty old Jeep just the way it is, so major modifications are right out.

CarCrashDetective1 karma

With your Jeep, I'd ideally suggest a front-facing harnessed seat in the back; at 5, she'd do better in a harnessed seat unless she can sit well 100% of the time. There are several combination seats under $200 and even under $100 that would serve as a harnessed seat before converting into a booster later on.

If that's not an option, the booster in the front with the shoulder and lap belt will work, although it won't be as safe as the harnessed seat in the back, since she's in the front and kids under 13 should always be in the back, and because she's too young for a booster. You can't use a booster with just a lap belt, so the back seat is out.

sophiesongbird1 karma

IM 8 1/2 months pregnant and after doing research we bought the Britax B-Agile Travel system. We like it so far, however we havent purchased the next Carseat, once baby outgrows the infant one.

do you have any suggestions?

CarCrashDetective1 karma

Under $200, I like the Graco Size4Me and Head Wise 70 the most. Above $200, I like the Clek Fllo and Diono Rainier and Pacifica. What I look for in seats are good height and weight limits, as these allow the seats to be used longer in safer configurations. I also look for seats that make getting good installations easy, as that increases the odds of their being used correctly.


Okay expecting father.

I've seen laws about kids have to be in car seats or booster seats until they are damn near 5 feet tall... is that true? WTF?

CarCrashDetective1 karma

Yes, it's true. Well, legally, most states allow you to go without any form of car seat once kids hit around 8, but ideally, you should continue to use car seats for another 2-4 years depending on the child. The reason is because adult seat belts are designed to fit adults. If a child isn't tall enough to fit an adult belt, in a crash, they can fly out of the belt above or below, or have their internal organs crushed by the belt. I recommend RF until at least 4, FF until 8, and boostering until a child is tall enough to have proper belt fit, which for most kids is between 10 and 12.


so if my kid is 4' 5" at age 12... they should still be in a booster seat?

CarCrashDetective3 karma

Yes, definitely. The NHTSA suggestion is 4'9", or 57". Some kids will need more than that, depending on how they're built. What you're looking for is for the shoulder belt to be in the middle of the shoulder, the lap belt on the thighs, the child's bottom right at the intersection of the top/bottom seats, the knees bent past the edge of the seat and feet on the floor, and the child able to keep this position without moving. If any one of those factors isn't there, then the adult belt / seat isn't a good fit yet. And the child won't fare as well as s/he otherwise would in a collision.


Okay now Ford I believe has some kid seat belt that has an airbag in it. Any idea if that works or is worth it to get?

CarCrashDetective2 karma

The inflatable seat belts aren't compatible with a lot of car seats. Or rather, a lot of car seats aren't compatible with inflatable seat belts, so if you've got a choice between vehicles that offer them and vehicles that don't, I'd choose the ones that don't. For choosing a safe car, crash scores, ESC, etc matter more.

proclutch0 karma


CarCrashDetective2 karma

To be honest, it doesn't affect seats for adults much, as vehicular seat belts and seats are designed to take incredibly high forces in collisions. Basically, as long as you can fit in a seat and have the belt routed properly, you're fine. The challenge is with childhood obesity, as kids who weigh a lot have fewer options in seats at each stage (i.e., rear-facing, forward-facing, booster). That's another reason why it's great that manufacturers are coming out with higher weight limits in newer car seats.

proclutch1 karma


CarCrashDetective3 karma

Exactly. I wouldn't worry about it.