c.2014 New York Times News Service
Under pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Graco Children’s Products has agreed to recall about 1.9 million rear-facing infant seats with a faulty buckle that can make it difficult to free a child during an emergency.
In February and March, Graco said it would recall about 4.2 million forward-facing child seats — designed for older children — with the same buckle. But Graco told federal regulators it did not want to recall the 1.9 million rear-facing infant seats because even if the buckle was hard to release, the seat was of a different design: The portion of the seat holding the child could be detached from its base and quickly lifted from the vehicle, while the base would remain anchored to the vehicle’s seat.
The safety agency pushed Graco, saying that “the hazards and risks involved in the delay of extricating a child from a rear-facing infant car seat in any emergency situation are significantly increased and rise to the level of unreasonable risk when the harness buckle is difficult to open or is stuck in a latched condition.”
If Graco had continued to resist and federal regulators would not back off, the dispute could have resulted in a public hearing on the defect and, eventually, a court case.
Another child-seat manufacturer, the Evenflo Co., which used the same buckle, also balked at recalling about 1.4 million rear-facing infant seats, citing the same reasons as Graco.
Evenflo “maintains its position that a recall is not warranted,” Jennifer Teitler, a spokeswoman for the company wrote in an email. But the safety agency issued a statement that it would continue to “push” Evenflo “to take action and address the safety risk.”
Graco decided to recall the additional seats after further investigation revealed “a higher than typical level of difficulty” in unlatching the buckle, according to a report from Graco posted Tuesday on the safety agency’s website.
Graco said that it was not aware of any injuries related to the problem on the rear-facing infant seats.