7 On Your Side investigates a popular car seat

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- A popular new infant car seat is in the spotlight because some parents say their babies can unclip the chest clip themselves.

A Martinez couple contacted 7 On Your Side after they said their 11-month-old kept unlatching her chest clip.

Ray Dolormente went to take his daughter Serena out of the car seat and he noticed right away the chest clip was unbuckled. He thought he forgot to buckle it.

"I was like, I must be the worst dad ever. OK, next time, focus. Make sure she's latched in," said Dolormente.

The next day, he drove Serena again.

"I look in the back real quick. I notice it was unlatched, so I pulled over, latched it again," said Dolormente.

He made sure it was locked.

"A few seconds after I got back on the road, I hear, 'click,'" explained Dolormente. The clip was open again!

Serena's mother Tammy blamed herself, too.

"I saw it unlatched and I thought, 'Oh, did I forget to latch it?'" she said.

The Dolormentes shared their stories with each other and wondered if their daughter was unclipping the clip on her own?

"So, we put her in the car seat and noticed she was playing with it and unlatched it herself," said Dolormente.

Ray shot video showing Serena's little fingers pushing the button until the clip pops open.

"God forbid something happens and I'm by myself driving on the freeway and somebody hits me. What's going to happen to my kid? She's not fully restrained," said Dolormente.

He contacted the company, UPPAbaby of Massachusetts. He asked for a better clip.

"I don't know if there's a recall on it or not, but is there a fix on this?" asked Dolormente. "And all they told me is that they've heard about it one time, but there's no fix."

UPPAbaby blamed Serena. Dolormente was told, "'you could have a really smart daughter.' I was like, 'OK. That's almost a lame excuse.'"

Dolormente contacted 7 On Your Side, which started investigating. Sure enough, we watched Serena press the button until she unclipped it, looking very pleased with herself.

It turns out other parents report their babies can open this clip, too. A mother in Kentucky complained to the Consumer Product Safety Commission saying her 6-month-old unclipped the buckle numerous times.

Another parent reported the problem to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA. And one mom on Amazon said her 5-month-old was unbuckling his chest clip.

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney first reported about children unbuckling their car seat chest clips 15 years ago. Back then, he showed you toddlers who were also easily escaping their straps. The federal government back then said the clips were not a priority. And still, today, the government does not require or regulate the chest buckle.

A NHTSA spokesperson said parents should contact the company with concerns.

UPPAbaby told 7 On Your Side an open chest clip is not a safety concern. The clip is used only to help with proper positioning of the harness.

The company also told 7 On Your Side, "While this child seems to be dexterous for her age, based on the video, the safety concern is that this consumer is not properly using their rear-facing car seat."

UPPAbaby says Serena's harness was too loose.

"I wasn't necessarily super alarmed," explained Jennifer Stockburger, Consumer Reports' car safety expert.

Stockburger agrees the chest clip is not intended as a major restraint. Still, she says if it's open, a child might try to wiggle out, just like the kids were doing years ago.

"I would certainly say that on the UPPAbaby, parents need to make sure that harness is quite tight," said Stockburger.

UPPAbaby told us it actively worked with the Dolormentes to try and educate them on proper child safety in the seat. The company also told us it crash tested the car seat without the chest clip and it passed.

UPPAbaby sent the Dolormentes a replacement car seat, but Ray and Tammy said the seat had the same chest clip and they don't want to take any chances, so they bought a different seat.

"The worse possible scenario can happen, so I was like 'Let's take that out of the equation. Let's put her in a safer car seat.' I don't want to deal with what ifs, I want certainties that she's going to be safe," said Dolormente.

7 On Your Side asked UPPAbaby if it was considering changing the latch. The company said that information is proprietary.

The company also said the seat won a five-star government rating for "ease of use." The Dolormentes say it seems a little too easy.

We have not seen or heard any reports of children being injured or getting out of the UPPABaby Mesa car seat because of the unbuckled clip.

If you've had a similar experience, we want to know about it. Please contact us here.

Editor's Note: This story was originally posted on Thursday, November 12, 2015. It was reposted on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 with additional information and clarification from UPPAbaby.
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