A question that often arises in the realm of child passenger safety is keeping children comfortable in their safety restraints. As CChIPS collaborator Julie Bing described in a previous blog post, parents have shared concerns that keeping their children rear-facing until age 2 years will be uncomfortable as the child grows. Other parents have trouble keeping their older children in a booster seat as their taller peers outgrow supplemental child restraints.
One example of the many aftermarket products advertised to families that are not regulated for safety.
An aftermarket infant head rest in use.
As a solution, some parents turn to products that are sold separately from the child restraint system (CRS) and advertise additional comfort, safety, or amusement for the child. Known as aftermarket products, these can include shoulder belt padding or positioning devices, seat belt tightening devices, head cushions and car seat covers.
As a Child Passenger Safety Technician, it can be challenging to explain to parents the potential dangers of these items. Because aftermarket products are sold separately, they are not evaluated under the same federal safety standard as a CRS. In fact, many child seat manufacturers expressly warn consumers not to use these products. For example, Britax’s child restraint manuals contain the following language: "The use of non-Britax Child Safety, Inc covers, inserts, toys, accessories, or tightening devices is not approved by Britax. Their use could cause this restraint to fail Federal Safety Standards or perform worse in a crash. Their use automatically voids the Britax warranty.” Other manufacturers include similar language in their manuals. However, manufactures often do sell products specifically designed, evaluated, and approved for use with their specific CRS for parents to consider.
Ultimately, a CPS technician cannot tell a parent not to use an aftermarket product. However, parents should be made aware that these products may diminish the protective effect of a CRS. Although a child’s comfort is important, ultimately their safety is the top priority for manufacturers and families.