Industry giant Graco Children’s Products announced today that it is recalling millions of car seats. The recall stems from allegations that the buckles used on the car seats are faulty, making it difficult to remove children from them. Car seat safety advocates say that this could be a serious problem in the event of an emergency such as a serious accident or car fire.
The recall includes approximately 3.8 million seats sold between the years 2009 and 2013 at this time, making it one of the largest recalls of its type to occur in years. An additional 1.8 million seats could be affected, however, as federal regulators with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have warned Graco that if the additional seats were not fixed, legal action would be taken to force the company to add them to the list of recalled seats.
The millions of seats currently a part of the Graco recall include a total of 11 models, the “Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size 4 Me 70, Smartseat, Nautilus, Nautilus Elite and Argos 70” models.
The additional seven seat models that could be recalled if Graco cannot show that the faulty buckle issue has been satisfactorily addressed are models primarily marketed for use by rear-facing infants. They are the “Snugride, Snugride 30, Snugride 32, Infant Safe Seat-Step 1, Snugride 35, Tuetonia 35 and Snugride Click Connect 40.” Graco says that there is no need to recall these additional seats because if the buckles were to fail in an emergency situation, the seats can be removed from the car by unlocking them from their base.
Car seat safety regulators began investigating the faulty buckle issue more than a year ago following multiple complaints by parents whose children had gotten stuck in the seats and had to be either cut or squeezed out of them. Graco says that the problem arises when the buckles are affected by food, beverages or other liquids causing them to become difficult to undo, but NHTSA officials say that Graco should know that contamination with such materials is a potential problem and should be able to address the issue in the manufacture its seats.
Graco denies that the faulty buckles are to blame for any serious injuries to children using its car seats. The company was a defendant in a confidentially settled lawsuit, however, that alleged that the company shared in the blame for the death of a 2-year-old child who was seated in a Graco Nautilus seat at the time of a car accident and subsequent fire.
The car seat manufacturer issued a statement to assure the public that the buckle issue does not affect the performance of the seats and that they are still safe to use for transport. Graco says that owners of any of the 18 models of seats potentially affected by the recall can call the company at 1-800-345-4109 to receive replacement harness buckles free of charge.
The buckles at issue are manufactured by an Indiana company, AmSafe Commercial Products. AmSafe also manufactures similar buckles for other brands of car seats, including Evenflo, another industry giant, prompting many to predict that in addition to the Graco models, millions more car seats may be recalled as well. AmSafe has not issued a public comment about the recall at this time.
By Michele Wessel