Millions of Child Seats Recalled for Faulty Buckles


February 12, 2014

Graco is recalling nearly 3.8 million car safety seats because children can be trapped, but is refusing to recall seven other infant seat models, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall notice.

On the seats being recalled, the buckles may not unlatch, making it difficult to remove the child from the seat. That increases the risk of injury in a crash, fire or other emergency when a speedy exit from the vehicle is required.

"NHTSA's investigation will remain open pending its evaluation of the Graco recall and until the Agency's consideration of the review of the seven remaining seat models is completed," the agency said. That means the agency and company will negotiate on whether a recall for SnugRide infant seats is warranted. NHTSA threatened civil penalties, telling the company to remove statements that underplayed the seriousness from public documents.

In an e-mailed statement, Graco said it "identified that food and dried liquids can make some harness buckles progressively more difficult to open over time or become stuck in the latched position." It emphasized that the infant seats were not included in the recall, saying they are "uniquely designed to detach from their base for quick release if needed." Those who have difficulty with an infant-seat buckle can also get a replacement buckle, Graco said. Graco said it is offering an improved replacement harness buckle to affected consumers at no cost.

"Graco would like to stress this does not in any way affect the performance of the car seat or the effectiveness of the buckle to restrain the child," the company said in the statement.

The child seat recall covers 11 models sold from 2009 through 2013.

NHTSA says it has at least 80 complaints about the seats. Parents said they had to use excessive force to unlatch the harness buckle. In some cases, straps had to be cut.

Graco said in a letter to NHTSA that it had been monitoring the performance of the buckles since 2009 and had given owners advice on how to use and clean them, and offered replacement buckles.

Child safety advocate Joseph Colella emphasized that the Graco seats should still to be used, "but repairs should be made as soon as possible."

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