US road safety group investigating child car seat problems

The US road safety organisation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been run through the mill as of late, after it was discovered that over the past ten years as many as eight million cars in the US have been sold with faulty airbags from manufacturer Takata, which could potentially fatally injure a driver in the event of an accident. Clearly it’s looking to save face in some respects, as it’s now announced that it’s investigating child car seat maker Graco, to see whether it deliberately didn’t tell regulators or the public about a potential safety flaw with one of its models.

Graco, party of the Newell Rubbermain Inc. company, recalled over six million car seats this year, after it was discovered that the buckles could become stuck, which in the event of an emergency could prevent a child from being removed from the seat. That could be life threatening to the parent and child in certain situations, so it’s good that the seats are being recalled. But should it have happened sooner?

The law states that any company discovering a safety issue with one of its car related products, report it to the authorities within five days. If it’s discovered that anyone at Graco or its parent company knew of the defect but took longer than that period to report the fault, then it could potentially face a fine of up to $35 million.


“Having cooperated fully with NHTSA for some time on this issue we are disappointed that they have decided to launch a further investigation,” said a company spokesperson to CBS News. “The safety of our products and the consumers that use them is paramount and underlies every decision we make.”

It also highlighted that even with the defective product being out in the wild for a good while before recall, no injuries or incidents were reported because of it. It also pledged full cooperation with any NHTSA investigation going forward. However, those statements are somewhat misleading, since there is a report of a child’s death in 2011, after a car caught fire. The child was restrained in a Graco car seat. After being sued by the family, Graco settled out of court.

As cooperative as Graco would like to come across too, it was only at NHTSA encouragement that it recalled as many seats as it did. Initially it only recalled around four million toddler seats when they were found to be defective. The NHTSA accused it of not taking the matter seriously enough and questioned why it hadn’t also recalled its defective infant line. While it complained, Graco eventually also recalled around two million if its infant seat models too.

Graco has since “analysed data,” on what has caused the seats to malfunction and is making efforts to fix the affected range, as well as to make sure that it doesn’t appear in future products.

As always, we would recommend you do a lot of research on your car seats. CarSeatLady is a great resource.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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