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.