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Can you get a ticket in Michigan for using an ‘expired’ children’s car seat?

Is there such a thing as an “expired” car seat?  What parents need to know about  complying with the law

Did you know that you could get a ticket in Michigan for using an “expired” children’s car seat?

It’s true.

According to the Michigan State Police:

If your use of an expired children’s car seat “results in the child not being properly restrained” in accordance with the “child restraint manufacturer’s instructions,” the “vehicle manufacturer’s instructions” and federal regulations, then “a Michigan State Police enforcement member may issue a citation for this violation.” (7/9/2012 e-mail statement to Michigan Auto Law)

Twitter question

The issue of the legal significance of an “expired” car seat came up because of a question that Michigan Auto Law received through its Twitter feed.

The question, which came from @jhollinger, was:

“Can we be ticketed in MI for having an ‘expired’ car seat?”

Michigan children’s car seat law

Upon receiving @jhollinger’s question, we immediately consulted Michigan’s law governing the use of children’s car seats.

However, as can be seen in the following language from Michigan’s “child restraint” and “booster seat” laws, Michigan law is silent about the specific legal significance of an “expired” children’s car seat.

Child restraint law: “[E]ach driver transporting a child less than 4 years of age in a motor vehicle shall properly secure that child in a child restraint system that meets the standards prescribed in 49 CFR 571.213.” (MCL 257.710d)

Booster seat law: “A child who is 4 years of age or older but less than 8 years of age and who is less than 4 feet 9 inches in height shall be properly secured in a child restraint system in accordance with the child restraint manufacturer’s and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions and the standards prescribed in 49 CFR 571.213.” (MCL 257.710(3)(b))

Similarly, the federal regulation, 49 CFR 571.213, referenced in Michigan’s “Child Restraint” and “Booster Seat” law said nothing about “expired” children’s car seats.

Open question

Because of its status as the state’s chief law enforcement entity and as a recognized expert on child safety issues, Michigan Auto Law posed the following questions via e-mail to the Michigan State Police:

  1. Is it against the law for a person to continue to use a “child     restraint     system,” i.e., a children’s car seat, after its expiration date?
  2. Does the Michigan State Police ticket for use of a “child restraint system,” i.e., a children’s car seat, beyond its expiration date?

The Michigan State Police weighs in

In response to Michigan Auto Law’s questions about the legal significance of an “expired” car seat and whether using one is a “ticketable” offense, Sergeant Aimee Maike, an attorney with the Legislative and Legal Resources Section of the Office of the Director of the Michigan State Police, e-mailed the following statements to Michigan Auto Law on July 9, 2012:

“Michigan law does not specifically address use of ‘expired’ child restraint systems. A cursory review of 49 CFR 571.213 did not reveal a reference to expiration dates. MCL 257.710e(3)(b) requires certain children be properly secured in a child restraint system in accordance with the child restraint manufacturer’s and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions and the standards prescribed in 49 CFR 571.213. If using the expired car seat results in the child not being properly restrained in accordance with the child restraint manufacturer’s and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions,  a Michigan State Police enforcement member may issue a citation for this violation.”

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“Additionally, MCL 257.710d(1) requires a driver transporting a child less than four years of age to properly secure that child in a child restraint system that meets the standards prescribed in 49 CFR 571.213. If using the expired child restraint system results in the child not being properly secured in a child restraint system that meets the standards prescribed in 49 CFR 571.213, a Michigan State Police enforcement member may issue a citation for this violation.”

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Manufacturers’ perspectives on car seat ‘expiration’

Here’s what some of the major manufacturers of children’s car seats have to say about car seat “expiration.”

Britax states: “BRITAX recommends that the use of a child seat be discontinued after a certain number of years from the date of manufacture … Expiration dates are provided for various reasons: technology has changed, components degrade from the environment …, parts get lost or installed incorrectly, or instructions and labels may not be available or not legible. After a child seat has met its expiration date, BRITAX requests that the child seat be destroyed.”

Graco states: “Six (6) years is the general recommendation [for using a car seat]. Each manufacturer determines the specific useful life for its seats. The reason for those limits involved possible degradation of the plastic shell or other parts, the possible loss/breakage of parts, and the fact that older seats sometimes do not meet current government safety standards. … If you need to dispose of your [expired] car seat … then you should cut the straps of the harness so someone doesn’t try to re-use the expired seat for their child.”

Evenflo states: “Each manufacturer sets an expiration date for its car seats … Most car seats should be replaced every six years.”

Discovering the car seat expiration date

For most manufacturers, the expiration dates appear on labels posted on the back of their car seats.

In the event that the expiration date does not appear on the label, identify the car seat model name, model number and the “manufacture date,” and then call the manufacturer to obtain the expiration date.

Related Information:

Free guide: How to Keep Your Children Safe

Posted in: BLOG, child safety, Michigan Car Accidents and tagged , .

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