We hear it all the time: "Car seats don't actually expire. That's just a ploy by the manufacturers to get you to spend more money and buy new stuff."
It doesn't matter how many times we hear it; it's still not true. Car seats expire, and your kid's safety could depend on you recognizing that fact.
We trust car seats to keep our little ones safe in a crash, and in turn, car seats trust us to know when and why they should be replaced. The promise made by the former heavily depends on our comprehension of the latter.
And it's relatively easy to see why.
Car seat label - on NHTSA websiteEnlarge Photo
"Why, back in my day, we rode home from the hospital on mom's lap while dad manned the three-on-the-tree, and there were no seatbelts, and we all survived. Up hill. Both ways."
If we look back 30 years ago, infant car carriers weren't widely available. The LATCH system didn't exist. Car seats certainly didn't have sippy cup holders either.
As time progresses, we learn things. We are able to take data from research and implement technology to better protect children.
According to the IIHS, the number of infants killed in car crashes since 1975 has plummeted 80 percent, and the number of children under 3 killed in car crashes has similarly dropped by 66 percent. Both of those declines are despite a 5-percent increase in the number of children riding in cars over the same time period.
That's an especially promising statistic bolstered further by researchers at the National Institutes of Health who concluded that effective use of a child restraint can cut down on fatal injuries by 70 to 80 percent.
As a result, car seats today have more technology and features built into them than one would think necessary—or even realize. From side-impact protection to spring-loaded whiplash protection, a lot of work has been put into better protecting our young ones and their results are clear by the numbers.