May 6, 2014 — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is pressuring Graco to expand a recall of 4.2 million car safety seats with faulty buckles to include 1.8 million additional infant car seats with the same defective buckle, according to the New York Times.
Graco says it does not need to recall the rear-facing infant seats because if the buckle gets stuck, adults are more likely to remove the carrier from the base, rather than unbuckle the infant.
The NHTSA has ordered a series of tests to determine how long a malfunctioning buckle would delay freeing an infant during an emergency.
The problem is that food, beverages, and other contaminants can make the buckle too sticky to open. In an emergency, such as a vehicle fire, submersion, or medical problem, the child is more likely to be injured or killed if adults cannot open the buckle.
According to a report (PDF) issued by the NHTSA investigators:
“ODI believes 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.”
Graco says no injuries or deaths have been linked to the faulty buckle. However, in 2011, the parents of a 2-year-old girl filed a wrongful death lawsuit in California after she died in a vehicle fire. Graco says the buckle did not play a role in the child’s death, but her parents say they were unable to free her because the buckle was stuck. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2012.
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