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Tips on making sure your car seat is up to standards

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services warns that a growing number of counterfeit car seats are being sold online
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A rise in the sale of counterfeit car seats has become a growing concern for parents and caregivers focused on keeping their children safe on Michigan roads.

As part of Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 17-23, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) are offering guidance to buyers to ensure they are purchasing car seats that will keep their child safe in the event of a crash, including tips on how to identify counterfeit seats and verify the seat purchased meets U.S. regulations and safety standards.

“Parents and gift givers are purchasing seats from online deal sites, sometimes with high-end price tags,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “Even parents that do extensive research can be easily fooled by these unsafe lookalikes or tricked into purchasing car seats that do not meet U.S. regulations or safety standards.”

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for young children, and properly restrained children have a greater chance of surviving a crash,” said Katie Bower, OHSP director. “Counterfeit car seats are made of cheaper, flimsier materials that are unable to withstand the forces that occur in a crash. These car seats are not federally regulated in the U.S. and are not safe to use for your children.”

Red flags
Parents and caregivers should look for the following red flags when shopping for a car seat:

  • Missing mandatory information including minimum and maximum height and weight in English, model name and number and date of manufacturing labeled clearly on the seat.
  • Missing this statement on at least one label: “This child restraint system conforms to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.”
  • Foreign languages on the label that do not include English.
  • Did not come with a car seat manual and/or a registration recall card.
  • No five-point harness with chest clip (except for booster seats).

Additional information is included in this flyer created by the Manufacturers Alliance for Child Passenger Safety.

Confirming it’s legal and safe
For individuals who purchase a car seat that has any of the red flags, there are additional ways to confirm the car seat is legal and safe for use:

Return and report
Individuals who receive an unsafe car seat are asked to let the retailer know and return it. If the return does not require the car seat to be sent back, discard the seat by removing the padding and cutting the harness straps. Do not donate the car seat. Unsafe car seats should also be reported to the following governmental agencies:

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Report by using an online form or calling 888-327-4236.
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission – Go to or call 800-638-2772.
  • U.S. Department of Commerce – Notify this federal agency in addition to reporting to NHTSA at

Secondhand car seats
If you are considering using a secondhand car seat, use the checklist below to determine if the car seat could be used:

  • The seat has never been involved in a moderate to severe crash.
  • The seat has labels stating date of manufacture and model number. This information is needed to find out if there is a recall on the car seat or if the seat is too old.
  • The seat has no recalls. If you do find a recall on the car seat, you should contact the manufacturer as some problems can be fixed.
  • The seat has all its parts. If the seat is missing a part, contact the manufacturer as some parts can be ordered.
  • The seat has its instruction book. You can also order the instruction manual from the manufacturer.

For any additional questions, please contact a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in your area.