How to Tell if a Car Seat is Counterfeit
A warning for parents after eight "fake" car seats found at North Texas hospitals
Are you thinking about purchasing a car seat online? Beware. Counterfeit car seats may look just like the real thing, but they can put your child in serious danger.
“I'm aware of eight fake car seats that have been found by car seat technicians at hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth region over the past several months,” said Sharon Evans, trauma injury prevention coordinator for Cook Children's Medical Center.
One of those fake seats was found at Cook Children's this past fall when a family was preparing to take their child home from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“I was teaching a class one night with a family and they brought in the car seat and I was just kind of looking at it like, hmm, something's not right,” said Christie Clemons, NICU child passenger safety tech and instructor. "The more I looked at it, the more I determined this was not an okay car seat.”
Clemons has been a car seat technician for 10 years and says she's never seen anything like the one that showed up in her class that day. After asking a few questions, Clemons learned the family had purchased the seat on the internet.
Evans said she became sick to her stomach when she heard about it because the family had been using it, not knowing the difference.
“I just really worry that if a child's in a crash, they're gonna be severely injured or killed. We know there wasn't a retainer clip, which in the United States, most have a chest clip or a retainer clip. But then as we started looking, the webbing is thinner. The buckle where you snap it together is hollow. I could bend the plastic. I could bend the whole seat. The way the straps are attached. I don't think they would hold during a crash. I'm really afraid the child would be severely injured or die,” Evans said.
So how can parents know whether a car seat is counterfeit or fake?
“There should be a sticker on the car seat that says it meets or exceeds, or it conforms to federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) 213,” Evans said.
Clemons says you also want to look for the manufacturer, model number as well as height and weight requirements which are required to be on the car seat by law.
“The stickers have to be on the car seat to meet FMVSS 213,” Clemons said. “And you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a really great seat. You just need to make sure that it meets the standards that are out there.”
Both Evans and Clemons hope parents will look for these safety standards when shopping online and in stores because if the unthinkable happens, a quality car seat could save a child's life. And they encourage everyone to look for these safety standards regardless of the retailer. Even when shopping at a big name brand store.
“None of us want to think about being in a crash, but if you listen to the news every morning, there's a high chance you will be,” Evan said. “Unfortunately, the number one way kids are injured or killed is in a car crash.”
One of the best ways you can ensure your car seat is safe and installed properly is to sign up for a free car seat check. Cook Children's and Safe Kids North Texas offer virtual car seat checks at freecarseatcheck.org.