Federal authorities are investigating whether child car seat manufacturer Graco complied with time deadlines in reporting safety defects of many of its child restraints. Under federal law, a manufacturer must file a report with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration within five days of learning a safety defect in a motor vehicle or its equipment.
The Graco child seat recall initially affected 3.8 million units, but since February, the recall has ballooned to 6.1 million units and become the largest recall of child safety seats in U.S. history. Since the initial recall, the NHTSA and Graco have repeatedly clashed over the scope of the recall. Graco faces a $35 million fine if it is held to be in noncompliance with federal safety reporting guidelines.
Children Trapped in Graco Child Seats
Graco Children’s Products Inc. is recalling 6.1 million child seats because of defects in the buckles which can make them difficult or even impossible to be opened. Graco has reported 6,000 complaints dating back to 2009 but dismissed them initially as simply customer dissatisfaction with the product.
Parents of children trapped in Graco child safety seats are reported to have been forced into cutting the straps of the child restraint or calling 911 for help. For one mother in California, there were no options available to her as her child died in a burning auto wreck as she and other struggled to undo the safety buckle in her Graco car seat.
Graco settled a wrongful death suit with the mother of the child but did not admit to a mechanical failure by its child seat product. The division of Newell Rubbermaid Inc. is the subject of a class action lawsuit in California over faulty latches in many models of Graco’s child safety seats. Graco is also facing class action suits over booster seats and strollers.
Hundreds of Complaints to NHTSA over Graco Child Seats
After facing scrutiny from federal lawmakers for its lackluster investigation of companies like GM and Takata, the NHTSA is stepping up pressure on manufacturers like Graco. The NHTSA has received 192 complaints about the child seats and finally seems poised to act as U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has had strong words in the press over the recent nationwide auto recalls.