There are illegal “car seats” for sale that you have to be watchful for but… the RideSafer is not one of them.
The RideSafer is a safe and legal and certified to US federal standards (FMVSS 213).
In recent years, car seat experts have made parents aware of the “child safety seat” or “booster seats” being sold on sites like Amazon or eBay and advertised on Facebook that are not safe to use or legal to use in the US as a child restraint. Often times these “car seats” are from unknown foreign manufacturers and don’t say anything about meeting federal motor vehicle standards (specifically FMVSS 213).
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We applaud this effort to inform parents of potentially dangerous products but we suspect it has created some confusion in the marketplace. We have had some well-intentioned people even make comments about the RideSafer on our social media platforms like: “It’s not safe” or “It’s not legal.” These comments are simply untrue.
It’s possible these individuals have never heard of or done their homework on the RideSafer or its manufacturer, Safe Traffic Systems, and they seem to have inaccurately lumped the RideSafer vests into this unsafe and illegal category of products.
So what is the difference then?
If you look at the products claiming to be child restraints, some of these restraints use the seat belt to restrain the system and expect the cloth system to restrain the child. Some don’t even use the seat belt at all; these use their own straps to wrap the seat.
4/17/17 Please note: For a while we couldn’t find these, at least on their original listings on Amazon, but they seem to be back with a vengeance from various other places and advertised a lot on Facebook.
The companies selling these “fake” seats are saying the seats are safe and “meet ECE standards based on third party ISO 9001 testing”. But ECE car seat standards (specifically ECE R44/04) require a child be elevated, so obviously this is incorrect information. And ISO 9001 testing is an international standard that specifies quality management; it has nothing to do with car seat standards or testing. It appears the companies are using language to make it sound like the car seat is certified to a certification that doesn’t exist.
Even if these seats were certified to ECE (again European) standards, that would not make them legal to sell or use in the United States.
Well, OK, but are they safe?
The crash energy involved in restraining a child is extreme, even in a minor crash. The formula we teach parents is speed x weight = amount of force needed to restrain. A 30 pound child in a 30 mile per hour crash would put over 900 pounds of force in the restraint harness to prevent that child from flying through the windshield, not to mention the other injuries that may occur. Just fabric will not hold up to that amount of force.
As you can see in this video, it’s not effective as a car seat.
(video courtesy of Surrey County Council & Britax)
You can read more information about these seats — how they work and why they are not safe — certification and legal labeling requirements (which these seats don’t meet) on CarSeatBlog.com.
So then is the RideSafer safe?
Take a look at a similar view of a crash test with the RideSafer, a child restraint certified to US FMVSS 213.
So now you may be asking, “OK, but how can this little vest keep my child as safe as a big bulky car seat or booster seat?”
All reports of real-life crashes proclaim the RideSafer performs great and kept their child safe. (You can find some of these parents’ reviews in the old model reviews.) There have been no recalls since its inception in 2004.
What makes the RideSafer a safe, legal option?
Car accidents can be tragic and we as parents want to keep our kids as safe as possible. So here is what makes the RideSafer different than these other devices — and better than a booster (we think):
- RideSafer uses the seat belt to restrain the child.
- There is an internal harness system in the vest. The internal harness is made of webbing similar to a seat belt. Its innovative energy-absorbing padding means crash energy will dissipate and spread across a wider area.
- The vest positions a vehicle’s seat belt on your child so it moves with him, maintaining proper belt positioning throughout the ride.
- The lap guides keep the lap belt going across the hips, protecting precious internal organs.
- The shoulder guide which safely holds the shoulder belt in place, away from the neck, ensuring your child feels comfortable and secured. (Thus removing the desire to tuck the belt behind the child’s back. This is an unsafe practice that often happens with a backless booster.)
- RideSafer keeps your child low and further back in the vehicle seat. This improves how well a child experiences crash energy and reduces head and knee injuries.
- This revolutionary “car seat” was crash tested as a harness restraint and exceeds U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS 213) crash test requirements.
The RideSafer Travel Vest can give you peace of mind with its impressive crash performance. (See some crash test numbers and videos here.)
The RideSafer has been available in the U.S. since 2004. Marketed primarily as solution for children with special needs in the beginning, the vest has only caught the attention of more parents as a solution for travel with kids, fitting 3 across or carpooling in the very recent years.
More Than Harness “Car Seat” Knockoffs
As more and more people are buying online, more and more counterfeit car seats are showing up for sale. Even popular traditional car seats like the Doona are being copied. Sometimes it’s hard to tell just by the pictures online what is a real car seat and what is a knockoff.
Knockoff car seats are made with cheaper, flimsier materials that won’t withstand the forces of a crash. Oftentimes they look like seats sold by major brands. They may appear safe to the untrained eye. However, when crash-tested, counterfeit car seats have been shown to shatter into pieces.
Things to look for:
- Unrecognizable manufacturer with foreign address and no US phone number
- Certified seats in the US are required to have very specific language on the labels. Look for the labels. It’s probably a knockoff if:
- They don’t have labels.
- The labels have only pictures it could be a European seat, which is still not legal to be used in the US.
- It has labels but
- they are in a foreign language
- it’s in English but seems grammatically incorrect
- it doesn’t mention Federal motor vehicle safety standards or FMVSS213
- it doesn’t have a model name or number or manufactured date
- Price is usually a good indicator. If it’s really inexpensive, it’s probably illegal.
- Look at materials and how well it’s made. The really cheap knockoffs are typically flimsy — and likely to break during a crash.
If you aren’t sure if it’s real or a counterfeit, call the manufacturer. They should know what retailers are carrying their seats and be able to tell you. Check the American Academy of Pediatrics’ car seat list. (Yes, the RideSafer is on this list.)
If you see illegal or fake car seats being sold, report it to a Child Passenger Safety Technician. Or report directly to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Go to NTHSA.gov and click on report a problem in the upper right corner. Choose Non-Vehicle, then Child Restraints and enter in the information. Choose “Other” if the brand is not in the drop down menu. Also report to the U.S. Department of Commerce using their contact form.
You can report knockoff RideSafer vests to us or to Safe Traffic System.
We want to know, what did you think when you first heard about the RideSafer? Share your comments below.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
Copyright 2022 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.
We originally published this post in October 2016. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Look at the way the neck snaps in the video. I don’t think it looks safe to me. Also the dummy here looks like a big kid, has it been tested for smaller kids who just met the 30 lb limit?
Yes, the RideSafer has been crash tested with a 3 year old crash test dummy which is what allows it to be certified starting with that range. Yes, that is what happens when a child is forward facing and why remaining rear-facing is so much safer. It would be safer for everyone in the vehicle, adults included. But at some point, because of the way cars are designed, we have to turn around.
Have you seen the booster seat crash test video as a comparison? You can view that here: https://shop.saferide4kids.com/products/ridesafer-travel-vest
If there a government website that lists this product as meeting the FMVS certifications. I tried to research it but the ones I found does not list RideSafer.
I’ve never found a list of all currently certified child restraints on NHTSA or any other government website. The RideSafer has been on the market since 2004 (believe it or not). I’ve been a trained child passenger safety technician since 2004 and our instructors have been sharing about the alternative child restraint called a RideSafer at least since my update refresher course back in 2006. There are CPS sites/communities like Car Seats for the Littles or Car-Seat.org that you can ask about the RideSafer. The RideSafer itself is labeled per NHTSA requirements for federally approved child restraints.
But do U have proof that it actually passed the same standards as other car seats like the vista of Greco?
I’m not sure what the vista of Greco is. Uppababy has an infant seat called Vista. Do you mean Graco? Graco has a lot of car seats but I don’t see one called Vista. The RideSafer manufacturer has all the crash tests results showing it meets or exceeds federal standards. They have as much proof as Graco has for their car seats; crash test results which are proprietary information that no car seat manufacturer shares with the public.
Why is it that we want our children to be safe when they ride in a vehicle but when someone comes up with a great idea more affordable the us always takes the idea and granite make it safer then charge rediculous amounts for the child to be safe??????? The point is a cheaper alternative to car seats and the bulkiness. What the heck who wants to pay almost $200 for something they can get cheaper! That’s why people go with foreign countries ideas
We can understand that desire for inexpensive. The problem is the foreign ones are not the same quality at all. The foreign “vests” are not designed in the same, or similar, way to the RideSafer. They completely fail during a crash. There are “cheap” traditional car seats from foreign companies being sold on the internet now. The plastic is thin; they fail in crash tests. That’s why consumers must make sure it’s a certified car seat. These foreign companies are not in the business to protect your children’s lives; they are not meeting federal standards; they are not crash testing their products; they are creating cheap products to make a quick buck. Creating safety products, especially car safety products, is not an inexpensive task. Quality, crash worthy materials are needed. Thousands upon thousands are spent to crash test, and sometimes tweak and crash test again.
I dont understand how it’s legal. This article says at the beginning that the safety seat must be elevated to meet federal safety requirements. The Ridesafer is NOT elevated… please explain?
Hi Kristine, The statement I believe you are referring to is: “The companies selling these are saying they are safe and meet ECE standards based on third party ISO 9001 testing. But ECE car seat standards (specifically ECE R44/04) require a child be elevated so obviously this in incorrect information.”
I’m sorry I did not make that more clear before. ECE is a European standard. I was trying to explain that the companies were trying to say it is certified to a certification that doesn’t exist. Even if they actually were certified to ECE standards, that would still not make them legal here in the US.
On the other hand, US federal standards are under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards number 213 (FMVSS 213). The RideSafer is certified under the standards for a harness restraint per FMVSS 213 crash test requirements which does not say anything about elevating the child.
Are there options for 2.5 year olds?
The safest option for a 2.5 year old is a convertible car seat rear facing. If you are looking for options for traveling, what we recommend (and what we did for our children when they were that age) is to buy an inexpensive, lightweight convertible car seat to travel with. Car Seats for the Littles offers a list of lightweight car seat options here.
what makes it different from other harnesses?
1. The RideSafer actually has an internal harness like the harness straps of a traditional car seat.
2. The RideSafer has been crash tested to meet or exceed FMVSS213 federal standards for car seat safety and is a certified child restraint.
3. The seat belt goes in front of the child to restrain the child with clips to keep the seat belt properly positioned. In many of these other vests, the seat belt gets attached in the back so the vest is supposed to be doing all the restraining but with crash forces the cloth (again not a harness) of these other vests tears and the child comes out as shown in the video.
So the ridesafe is legal in all states and a 3yr old and up just sets in the reg seat while using it? Not in a booster or car seat?
Hi Carol, The RideSafer is a certified, federally approved child restraint and legal in most states (a few states require a child be “elevated”, in some of these there is language that still allows for the RideSafer, see our car seat laws by state for specific states). The RideSafer is designed to be used by itself with the child in the vehicle seat. Being lower and further back in the seat shows benefits during a crash. For those few states that require a child be elevated the manufacturer designed a super lightweight booster that can be used with the RideSafer.
This looks great, I think my only concern comparing these to full car seats is that car seats are often produced with additional side protection, in case of side collisions, t-bone accidents. How does the vest compare in these situations?
Hi Martselina, While obviously the RideSafer doesn’t offer side impact protection on its own, newer cars are often designed with side impact protection in the car’s safety system. NHTSA recognizes the niches the RideSafer fills and excludes harness restraints from side impact requirements. We have a post specifically about side impact protection and the RideSafer for more information.
Can this harness be used in a seat facing the back of the car?
No RideSafer is not certified for use in a rear facing vehicle seat.
What about the GOKIZ safety vest??
Hi Sara, We do not have personal experience with the GoKiz vest. It is not a certified child restraint (like the old model RideSafer 3, it is not tetherable and cannot be used with a lap-only belt so cannot be certified as a harness seat and does not elevate the child so cannot be certified as a “belt positioning booster”). Though the manufacturer says it has been tested to FMVSS 213 standards, we have not seen any videos or other results of this test.
Why can’t a parent install 5 point harnesses in their back seats that would allow for adjust to secure a child in? They would be secured to the car and would fit properly around a child? Plus if the 5 point harnesses are used for adults in such things as off road and racing I should be deemed safe in a car for a child