FairWarining Reports

Timing of Child Seat Recall Raises Questions

Graco Children’s Products has announced a safety recall of 25,000 child seats. But the action comes more than two years after a test by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that a strap to hold the child in the seat could break in a crash.

That was revealed in a report posted Wednesday on the NHTSA website.

The reason for the delay in taking action is uncertain. A NHTSA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The recall affects some My Ride 65 seats manufactured during the summer of 2014. “In the event of a serious motor vehicle crash, the harness webbing restraining the child may break resulting in a child not being properly restrained,” Graco said.

But the company is not aware of any failures other than the one that took place during the testing by the federal government, spokeswoman Ashley Mowrey said in an e-mail. That testing was part of NHTSA’s effort to make certain that manufacturers comply with minimum federal safety standards.

Manufacturers are required to meet a wide range of those standards. However, because the federal government lacks the resources to test every product for every standard, manufacturers submit statements swearing that the standards are met. Then, the federal government does spot checks for compliance.

It was during one such compliance test in January 2015 that a strap failed.

But in its recall filing with NHTSA, Graco said the agency did not inform it of the failure until March 2016, about 14 months later.

Graco said it then began looking into the issue, but its “historical webbing test data and investigative testing” did not detect a problem, and another year passed.

Then, last month, NHTSA contacted Graco again and said it had carried out more tests on the strap. One strap failed and another passed. Graco said that prompted it to announce a recall.

Graco also raised the possibility of a wider recall, telling federal regulators the company “will continue its investigation to ensure that the scope of the recall is appropriate.”

The company has previously clashed with NHTSA over recalls.

In 2015, Graco agreed to pay $10 million to resolve NHTSA’s accusations that Graco delayed recalling about four million child seats with a defective buckle. The agency said the buckle could make it hard if not impossible to get a child out of the seat in an emergency.

In a statement this week, the company said “out of an abundance of caution, Graco is notifying consumers who may be impacted and is providing, free of charge, replacement kits with new harness restraints and installation instructions. While waiting for a replacement kit, consumers may continue to use My Ride 65 convertible car seats.”

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