ATHENS, Ga. — Car seats are expensive and one of the most important purchases parents make for their child. But safety experts are warning families to stay vigilant after nurses spotted a counterfeit car seat in a local hospital.
"I had a baby I needed to do a car seat test on and the seat had a different emblem than I had ever seen before,' Rebekah Zech, a NICU nurse at Piedmont Athens Regional, told 11Alive News. "It caught my attention and I felt like something might be going on here."
The seat was gifted to the mother, Zech explained, and retailed for around $400 online. But after nurses compared the car seat to a legitimate one, the team noticed important features were missing.
"I couldn't find a model, an expiration date, any safety info on crash testing," she said.
The car seat turned out to be a fake version of a popular brand. Zech and the team at Piedmont Athens Regional are now warning parents and hospital staff to be on the lookout.
"Just like you can buy an off market purse, there are these options out there," Rebecca Rogers, a NICU nurse and car seat technician, said.
However, the concern over knock off car seats and kids' safety is not just in Athens.
"I see them (fake or counterfeit car seats) quite often here at Egleston," Amber Woody, a child passenger safety specialist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life, confirmed.
The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety also said its team recently replaced several fake seats in the Augusta and Savannah areas.
The warning is eye-opening to parents like Kristine Schenk, who is expecting a baby girl and recently visited Piedmont Athens for a car seat safety check.
"It's kind of terrifying because even when you do your research," Schenk said. "It's still possible you can buy a counterfeit car seat."
"The main thing I would say is to be cautious from buying from online sites that allow third party vendors, such as Amazon and Walmart," Woody said. "Look for well-known brand names. There should be a sticker stating that the car seat complies with FMVSS 213. Also, if there is a lack of stickers with instructions or no chest clip that raises some red flags."
April Dorsett, Safe Kids coordinator at Piedmont Athens, said it's also important you know the origin of your seat and complete the registration to be aware of any recalls. There are also resources for parents who may be unsure whether their child's car seat meets federal standards.
"As a technician, when we're registering the seat, that's the first thing we're doing, but as a parent, if you're unsure, contact us and make sure everything is legit," she added.
Zech and Rogers are just relieved they detected the fake seat before it was too late.
"Because I have no idea what would have happened to that seat if they were in a crash," Zech said, "And ultimately what would have happened to their baby."
For more information or to find a car seat technician in your area, visit Safe Kids Georgia's Car Seat Safety Guide.