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Car Seat Safety Tips

Counterfeit car seats sold online could put children and babies in harm’s way. These counterfeits may be more common than you might think. In June of 2021, a staff member at Yale New Haven Hospital stepped in after suspecting a patient had a counterfeit car seat. Thankfully, the staff was able to catch the imposter and the family went home safely.

Nick Aysseh, Manager for the Yale New Haven Hospital Center for Injury & Violence Prevention, says car seats need to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in order to keep kids safe.

“Using a seat that doesn’t comply with U.S. standards could absolutely lead to severe injury, paralysis or even death,” Aysseh said.

He outlined some key features parents should look for.

Safe car seats

In the U.S., all car seats must include: 

  • A 5-point harness with straps that go over the hips and shoulders
  • A chest clip
  • A splitter plate in the rear
  • Labeling with specific weight and height limits
  • Manufacturing label with name, model number, date of manufacture and expiration dates
  • Registration card and manual

“The reason we require the chest clip is it helps disperse the crash forces and keep the child secured so they don’t come out,” Aysseh said. “If you have a seat that doesn’t comply to those standards, you could potentially have a kid coming out of the seat or being injured by the mechanism that’s designed to protect them.”

Spot counterfeit car seats

When shopping online, Aysseh recommends avoiding third party vendors. If you are not sure, look at the bottom of the listing. You should only purchase safety items such as car seats or strollers from a reputable company. You can also look for these red flags:

  • Missing labels
  • Missing registration card and manual
  • Labels with bad grammar
  • Seats without a chest clip

If parents realize they have a counterfeit, they should stop using it immediately. They can contact the YNHH car seat hotline at 203-200-KIDS (5437) or email [email protected] to connect with a certified car seat technician that can help point the parent or caregiver in the right direction.

Safe car seat installation

Nationally, roughly 70% of car seats are misused or improperly installed. A technician can help educate parents about car seat safety and help them set up their seat.

The YNHH Center for Injury & Violence Prevention offers free appointments in New Haven and Bridgeport twice a month at each location. Parents should email [email protected] for an appointment or they may also try calling the car seat phone line at 203-200-KIDS (5437). If these locations are not convenient, staff can recommend a seat check location in their immediate or surrounding area.

Some police or fire departments also have certified technicians available who can help. No matter where parents make an appointment, they should call at least two months before their baby’s due date to set it up.

In addition to proper car seat installation, parents should always complete the product registration for safety items. That way, in the event of a recall, parents will know. Learn more about car seat safety and to find a fitting station here.