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Is it Illegal to Use an Expired Car Seat in Michigan?

Key Takeaways

  • Michigan law requires all children must be buckled into car seats until they are 8 years old or reach a height limit of 4 feet 9 inches.
  • Infant car seats, children between the ages of 3 and 7, children ages 7 to 8, and children over 8 have different requirements.
  • As a rule of thumb, replacing your car seat after a significant accident is safest for your child.
  • You can normally find the expiration date of a car seat at the rear of the seat.

Michigan has several state laws dictating car seat safety and which car seats you should use based on your child’s age, height, and other factors. If you are a new parent or new to the state of Michigan and do not know the car seat safety laws, they can be confusing. We can explain the laws and answer common questions like, “Is it illegal to use expired car seats?” If your family is in a car crash and needs help with their injury case, do not hesitate to call Matz Injury Law at 1-866-22Not33.

Is it Illegal to Use an Expired Car Seat in Michigan?

State law does not expressly address car seat expiration dates. Police can, however, issue tickets to parents using an expired car seat. According to the Michigan State Police, if the expired car seat results in a lack of proper restraint for the child, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, a state police officer may issue a citation.

What Are the Michigan Car Seat Laws?

Michigan law requires all children must be buckled into car seats until they are 8 years old or reach a height limit of 4 feet 9 inches. The laws regarding which car seats you should use, however, change based on your child’s years of age and height, from infancy through late childhood.

Child Car Seat Restraint Systems

According to the Michigan State Police, child passenger safety laws require different types of car seats and child restraint systems depending on the child’s age. Infant car seats, children between the ages of 3 and 7, children ages 7 to 8, and children over 8 have different requirements. The law also differentiates between when children may sit in the front seat or must sit in the back seat, when a rear-facing seat or forward-facing vehicle seat is necessary, and when your child may transition to a seatbelt.

Some of these guidelines for child restraint systems cross over. Children between 4 and 7 years of age, for example, may use convertible car seats that can be forward- or rear-facing, while kids ages 8 through 12 may require either a seatbelt or a booster seat.

Should You Change a Car Seat After an Accident?

The law does not require replacing car seats after an accident. As a rule of thumb, replacing your car seat after a major accident is always a good idea. Car seats can be damaged in accidents and become less secure. The seat, in short, could be unsafe for further use, and you would never know it until it is too late. Changing it is a safe bet.

If you are in a car accident in Michigan and your child is injured in their booster seat, Matz Injury Law may be able to help. Call us at 1-866-22Not33 or use our simple contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our team today.

Choosing The Best Car Seat For Your Child

two boys sitting in forward facing car seats

Car seats are not just the law. They are important to highway safety and ensure safe kids during an accident. According to CDC.gov, when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, car seats reduced the risk of injuries among children from car crashes by 71% and saved the lives of 325 children in 2017 alone.

Car seats and child safety seats come in several different varieties. Choosing the correct seat for your child requires paying attention to their age and height. The types of safety car seats include rear-facing seats, front-facing car seats, booster seats, and seatbelts.

Rear-Facing Car Seats

Rear-facing car seats are indicated for any child less than 4 years of age under Michigan law. Children should travel in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the seat’s height and weight limit. Ideally, you should place rear-facing car seats in the car’s back seat for ideal safety.

In fact, the law states that children younger than 4 must ride in the back seat if the motor vehicle has one. If all of the back seats are occupied by kids under 4 years old, you may place a child under 4 in a car seat in the front seat of the car. Children may only ride in a front-seat rear-facing car seat if the airbag is deactivated for that seat.

Forward-Facing Car Seats

Forward-facing seats are appropriate for children who exceed the limits of a rear-facing seat and are up to 4 years of age. It is important, however, that parents do not rush things when graduating a child to a front-facing seat. Evidence supports the idea that rear-facing seats in the vehicle’s back seat are a much safer option when properly used and secured.

Booster Seats

Booster seats are the next stage of the child restraint system. They are indicated for kids between 4 and 8 years of age who are shorter than 4 feet 9 inches. When a child is 8 years old or taller than the height benchmark, they can transition to a regular safety belt with a lap belt and shoulder belt combination like an adult passenger.

Again, however, do not rush to graduate your child to a regular safety belt. If they have not outgrown their booster seat, it probably offers a safer option than a regular seat belt. With proper belt-positioning, booster seats are still the best protection for safe kids. As long as the straps remain across their hips and chest and not on their belly or neck, the child should stay in the seat.

Do Car Seats Expire?

Just like food and medications, car seats have expiration dates. You can normally find these dates at the rear of the car seat. If the expiration date does not appear on a label, you can collect the car seat’s model name, number, and date of manufacture and call the car seat manufacturer to get the expiration date.

Unfortunately, the government has no regulations requiring expiration dates on car seats. If you cannot find an expiration date or any of this information for your car seat, it is usually a safe bet to assume that it expires six to eight years after it was made. This is a guideline from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Why Do Car Seats Expire?

You are not alone if you question the need for car seat expiration dates. Many parents wonder if expired car seats are legitimate or are an effort to sell more seats. The truth is that car seat expiration dates are intended to protect children from plastic degradation, lost parts, breakage, and even potential changes in regulations. Plastic is durable, but stress from the child’s weight, sun exposure, heat, cold, and other strains can weaken it over time.

Degrading Car Seat Materials

Car seats use a conventional LATCH system and a five-point harness to protect kids. Each point of the system protects children when they are in a car crash. If the plastic is degraded at any level, the entire shell could break while the energy transfers from point to point.

Updated Car Seat Regulations

Updated regulations and recommendations come out every few years. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, offers regular updates on safety tips for best practices in car seat use. Car crashes, they state, are a leading cause of death among children, and the right safety seats save lives when properly secured and used.

Since car seats last for between six and eight years, however, it is unlikely that your seat, if purchased new, will expire before your child grows out of it. The real risk is when people purchase used car seats online or from secondhand stores to save money. Purchasing a second-hand car seat could put your child at undue risk of injury or death. Nobody wants a broken car seat to cause their child’s death.

What Are the Penalties for Breaking Car Seat Laws in Michigan?

Car seat laws in Michigan are civil infractions, not criminal ones. This means there will not be a jail sentence or lasting charges on your record for breaking car seat laws. You will not get driver’s license points, and it will not affect your driving record in any way. Likewise, it should not affect your insurance rates unless you fail to pay your fines (which can affect your credit score). However, since every policy differs, you must check your insurance policy to ensure this is the case.

If, however, you are caught riding with a child in a substandard seat that does not meet regulations, you can face fines and administrative costs. The fines for breaking car seat laws are $65 plus a $10 administrative fee, an assessment fee, and court costs of $40, for a total of $115. None of this, however, is equal to the risks of putting your child’s life in danger.

What Can I Do With an Expired Car Seat?

car seat with damage to the sides

You may be able to recycle an expired car seat if a local facility accepts it. To recycle the seat, however, you need to separate all the components. This means cutting off the fabric, straps, and foam padding, removing all the metal you can, and marking the plastic base as unsafe. You will then have to discard any pieces that mix metal and plastic before recycling the remaining plastic and metal pieces.

Not all facilities, however, will recycle car seat components. You can also look for trade-in programs from major retailers and local organizations where they take the seats and properly dispose of or recycle them. If all else fails, you can throw the expired seat out in your regular trash.

Does Using Expired Car Seats Affect Compensation for an Injured Child?

An expired car seat should not affect compensation for your injured child after a car accident. Since Michigan is a no-fault state, your personal injury protection (PIP) should cover your injuries and passengers’ injuries up to the limits of your policy. Unless your specific policy has an exclusion based on car seat issues, you should be able to file an insurance claim.

If, however, your insurance company tries to lower your compensation based on a car seat issue, Matz Injury Law may be able to help. We can fight for your right to full compensation and hold the at-fault driver responsible for the accident.

Seeing Your Child Injured in a Car Accident is Heartbreaking. We Can Help

A car accident that results in serious injury turns your life upside down. When your child is injured, it is even worse. All you want is for them to be well again, and you are fighting mounting medical bills, difficulty bringing in money due to your own injuries, and all manner of pain and suffering. When the insurance company downplays your injuries or tries to refuse payout, it can be hard to know where to turn.

The experienced Michigan personal injury lawyers at Matz Injury Law are ready to fight for you. We will help you build a case, challenge bullying insurance companies, and fight to get the full compensation you deserve. Contact us at 1-866-22Not33 today or use our online contact form for a free consultation.