Graco is recalling 3.7 million child safety seats over concerns about a buckle issue. The amount of product involved makes this the fourth biggest car seat recall ever. The action affects harnessed booster sets and the harness buckles on toddler convertible car seats that were made between 2009 and July of last year.
The recall comes even as the manufacturer is contesting a government request that another 1.8 million child safety seats be included in the initiative. As it stands, this latest announcement includes 11 of the 18 car seats that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had identified as potentially having problems.
The issue is that the red release button in the harness center may be hard to unlatch or get stuck if dried foods or liquids get stuck in it. This could prove critical in an emergency situation in which a child needed to be removed from the car seat or booster right away. NHTSA says that some people have even had to cut the harness straps to extricate child riders.
Graco is offering improved replacement harnesses to customers for free. However, the car seat maker was clear to stress that it did not believe the issue impacted a child’s safety or the effectiveness of the car seat. It said that consumers could continue using the product as is until the harness is replaced. No injuries or deaths associated with the buckle issue have been reported so far.
Graco spokeswoman Ashley Mowrey says that the company started sending buckle cleaning tips and replacement buckles to owners as early as last summer, as well as instructions on how to replace the problematic part. The manufacturer believes that under 1% of the seats recalled had buckles that were hard to unlatch or got stuck. NHTSA has accused Graco of “soft-pedaling” the recall. Just recently, the federal safety agency issued new guidelines on how to install a car seat as children approach the upper middle weight limit. Starting this month, new car seats must have on their labels the explanation that the LATCH system should only be used when a car seat and a child together weigh no more than 65 pounds. The system involves anchors in a car’s rear seat and the child safety seat’s tethers. The weight standard is being clarified due to new information suggesting that just lower anchors may not be enough to properly restrain a car seat weighing beyond that 65 pound limit.
NHTSA is also establishing a new side-impact crash test for car seats like the ones performed on cars. According to research, a lot of child injuries and deaths in side-impact collisions involved vehicles transporting kids that stopped at an intersection and then was struck on the side as it accelerated when crossing.
Our car seat injury lawyers represent children and their families with products liability claims against manufacturers over car seat defects, including faulty booster seats, chest clip issues, plastic shell fracturing, harness restraint problems, and other safety issues.