DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -- Buying a car seat is an adventure every new parent has to take.
A mom secures her child in a car seat, but is that seat expired?
But, there's an important detail that many new parents may not be taking into account.
"You can call the police department and have a car seat inspected by one of our car seat technicians to make sure it is installed properly,” said Dothan Police Lieutenant Scott Owens.
The Dothan Police Department wrote 246 citations last year for child restraint violations.
Those include not having a car seat or having it improperly installed.
Dothan police help parents install the seats to make sure they are safe, and they keep an eye out for one feature in particular.
"Most people probably wouldn't expect a car seat to have an expiration date on them, but they do have expiration dates and you should look very closely for those,” said Owens.
When you're shopping for a car seat, one of the first things that probably catches your attention is the price tag, but another thing you should be looking at is that expiration date, which is on the side of some car seats or the bottom of others.
Most car seats expire after about six years, some longer depending on the quality.
An expert at Crib to College in Dothan said car seats also expire if they've been in a wreck even once before because the materials stretch.
An expired car seat isn't something police will cite you for, but it could lead to other issues.
"If you're in a crash, serious injury, fatal crash, you may be criminally responsible for not having a safe car seat,” said Owens.
Wiregrass Hope is a local non-profit that helps young mothers prepare for parenthood.
“One part of our program is if you complete all nine of our parenting visits, you are awarded with a car seat at the end of the program,” said Wiregrass Hope Pregnancy Center Director Kristin Kite.
Those car seats are funded by donations and are always new, never used.
"So we know they've never been in a car accident, and we know that they are brand new, not expired,” said Kite.
So expiration date is something that Wiregrass Hope constantly takes into account, but if you're looking to check the expiration date on your car seat, again, those are usually on the side or on the bottom.
The Dothan Police and fire departments help install car seats for free.