Graco Baby Seat Recall May Have Been Improperly Delayed, NHTSA Investigates

Government safety officials have opened an investigation into the timeliness of Graco Children’s Products, Inc.’s reporting of problems associated with nearly 6 million child seats recalled earlier this year, which contained buckles and latches that may be difficult to deteach in the case of an emergency. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced an investigation into the Graco baby seat recall on December 1, indicating that the agency is reviewing whether Graco followed guidelines for reporting potentially defective motor vehicle equipment, which car seats are considered.

The investigation stems from the refusal of Graco to conduct a recall on the car seats after the NHTSA initially reviewed the problem in October 2012.

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After Graco’s denial, the agency wrote an executive letter requesting the manufacturer conduct a recall, identifying more than 6,000 customer complaints of Graco baby seat buckles becoming stuck, including some reports indicating parents had to cut their children from the harness buckle.

“There is no excuse for delaying a recall to address any safety related defect,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in the announcement. “If Graco delayed in protecting children and infants from this defect, we will hold them accountable.”

The Graco child seat recall was finally initiated earlier this year, when the company recalled 3.7 million forward-facing toddler car seats in February, due to the harness buckle design.

The Graco recall was expanded on July 2, adding nearly 2 million rear-facing car seats due to the same buckle design problems, which allowed food and liquids to enter the tracks, causing the buckle to stick and not release when pressed. This also posed a safety hazard to children in car seats if they could not be removed from a vehicle in the event of an emergency.

According to the NHTSA website, Graco refused to acknowledge a safety risk existed with either buckle design, but after five months of negotiations Graco finally agreed to NHTSA demands.

Companies that provide motor vehicle equipment are mandated by law under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act to report any known issues with the products that may cause a safety related defect within five business days to the NHTSA. In the event the company does not cooperate with the guidelines, the manufacturer could face civil penalties upwards of $35 million.

Despite the NHTSA’s concern and the fact that the designs may cause an unreasonable risk to a child’s life in the event of an emergency, Graco has stated on their website that the seats are still safe and can be used until Graco can provide a replacement part. To date, no injuries or deaths have been reported in relation to the recalled car seats.

The investigation comes just days after Graco announced a recall of 5 million strollers that carry a risk of fingertip laceration and amputations.

The Graco stroller recall was announced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on November 20, following at least 11 consumer reports involving finger injuries suffered by children, including at least six incidents where the fingertip was amputated, four reports of partial-fingertip amputation and one finger laceration.

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