Graco issued a massive recall, the largest in five years, recalling 3.8 million seats, after customers complained that the harness on certain models stuck and were difficult to unlatch, a safety concern that may have resulted in at least one death. Graco announced the safety recall after pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA). The agency said in a recent interview that there may be at least one death involved because the latch stuck. The NHTSA wants Graco to increase the recall to include 1.8 million more car seats.
In a statement to press the NHTSA said that when the latching mechanism gets soiled by food or liquids it can get stuck and be difficult for parents or caregivers to unlatch. The company issued an apology at first, but said that this was not reason enough to issue a recall, stating that there is nothing wrong with the latching mechanism unless it gets soiled. The NHTSA said that was not a valid reason because there should be some expectation that the product would get soiled. In a letter issued to Graco, the NHTSA said if they did not go forward with a recall then public hearings and sanctions would occur.
The NHTSA began investigating the car seat complaints in 2012 when letters came in from concerned parents over the difficulty of unlatching the car seats. Parents said that they also complained directly to Graco, but were not getting any results from the company, so they took their complaints to the government watch-dog.
An infant was killed in a crash in California that may have been related. The death occurred after a car accident that resulted in a massive fire. The child in question was allegedly strapped into one of the recalled Graco Nautilus safety seats.
Currently, the company has only recalled the seats that are either convertible to a toddler seat or built specifically for a toddler seat. The NHTSA wants an additional recall on rear facing infant seats, but Graco is refusing saying that infants are not likely to soil the harness and locking mechanism and therefore the same problem does not exist. However, the company has offered to replace the locking mechanism on any of the seats that have not been recalled.
The agency stated that most of the complaints came from parents who had to resort to cutting the harness in order to free their child. They added that there was an equal number of complaints for infant car seats as for regular car seats. Still, Graco maintains that there is no reason to recall the infant car seats at this time. In a letter to Graco, the agency is demanding an explanation as to why there was a smaller recall than what the agency deemed necessary.
For a complete list of the recalled items consumers can visit the Graco website, or call their toll-free number (1-800-345-4109). Despite the one death in California, Graco maintains that their car seats are completely safe and that the recall has more to do with the inconvenience that the locking mechanism may cause users than any massive safety issue.
By Rachel Woodruff