Child car seat manufacturer Graco is issuing a safety recall for 3.7 million car seats manufactured in recent years over a buckling issue.
According to a CNN news report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that Graco is voluntarily recalling 11 of 18 model seats the government asked be recalled.
NHTSA’s probe will remain open as it evaluates the Graco recall and reviews the seven remaining seat models for product liability issues.
However, this recall of 3.7 million alone makes this recall the fourth biggest ever for car seats. NHTSA has asked Graco to recall seven other models – all infant seats. However, Graco did not include those models in its recall.
Defective Harness Buckle Puts Toddlers At Risk
According to a statement issued by Graco, the recall affects harness buckles used on all toddler convertible car seats and harnessed booster seats manufactured from 2009 to July 2013.
The red release button in the center of the harness can become difficult to unlatch of become stuck, which could make it difficult or impossible to remove the child quickly in an emergency.
Graco says they found that food and dried liquids can make some harness buckles progressively more difficult to open over time and become stuck in a latched position.
Here is a video that shows the issues at hand:
When the recall begins, Graco will offer new and improved replacement harness buckles to affected consumers at no cost. Until they get replacement buckles, Graco is asking parents to continue using their seats for their children.
However, NHTSA is encouraging parents and caregivers to get alternative car seats for transporting their children until Graco makes the fix. So far, Graco reports no injuries. The car seats sold for between $99 and $400.
A Serious Safety Problem
Graco is clearly trying to downplay this problem despite the massive recall.
According to an AOL.com report, NHTSA’s Office of Defects was “unusually blunt” in criticizing both Graco’s recall efforts and the mechanics of the malfunctioning latches.
Graco had apparently received more than 6,100 complaints from parents who had trouble unbuckling their children. NHTSA got 135 complaints.
In those cases, 14 people had to cut the straps to remove their children and 35 were able to loosen them and maneuver their children out of the seats. Some parents told NHTSA they had to seek help from emergency responders to remove their children from the seats.
Here is the even more disturbing part. Graco told federal investigators that the stuck buckles don’t pose an “unreasonable safety risk” and that they knew of no injuries associated with the problem.
Perhaps they “forgot” to mention that they have been named in a wrongful death lawsuit in California where the plaintiff alleges that 2-year-old Leiana Ramirez was burned to death in a car fire after she could not be removed from her Graco Nautilus in time.
Why did Graco fail to mention that incident to NHTSA? How many more incidents do we not know about? We certainly hope NHTSA delves into this issue and forces Graco to recall the remaining infant seats so the appropriate repairs can be made and similar tragedies can be averted.